Thai film director decries censorship

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Apichatpong Weerasethakul attends the Cemetery of Splendour screening during the BFI London Film Festival in London, EnglandImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Apichatpong Weerasethakul is in London for the screening of Cemetery of Splendour at the BFI London Film Festival

An award-winning Thai film director has told the BBC he does not want his latest film shown in Thailand as he would be required to self-censor.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul, winner of the prestigious Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or prize in 2010, said Thais did not have "genuine freedom".

The film, Cemetery of Splendour, evokes political uncertainty in Thailand.

Thailand's army seized power in a coup last year and has since increased censorship in the country.

Weerasethakul told the BBC's Issariya Praithongyaem that showing the film in Thailand would do more harm than good.

"Whatever movies we have produced, we don't want to show it to Thai audiences because in the current situation we don't have genuine freedom. I don't want to be part of a system where the movie director has to exercise self-censorship," he said.

The plot of his new film revolves around a unit of soldiers afflicted by an epidemic of a mysterious sleeping sickness.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Apichatpong Weerasethakul received the Palme d'Or in 2010 for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

Weerasethakul added that the recent political transition in his homeland was more violent than previous ones and he felt sad that people had allowed it to happen again and again. Thailand has had 12 military coups since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932.

"I feel there is more violence in our country than in others that are in similar situations," he said. "And I am sad to see that I don't have any power or rights to speak because I know if I speak, harm will come to me."

Since last year's coup, concerns around censorship by the country's military government have grown.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who heads the military government, initially said democratic elections would be held before the end of 2015.

But they were delayed following a decision by the military government to hold a referendum on the new constitution.

A council appointed by the military rulers recently rejected the controversial draft constitution, further delaying elections.