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THAILAND - Dec 6, 2005

Ms. Ladda Tangsuphachai, Director of Cultural Monitoring for the Department of the Ministry of Culture has sent a bestselling book to the Police because it too realistically depicts life in Bangkok, including "negative subjects" which she says includes gay topics.

Kom Chad Luek newspaper said the book was criticised for discussing "negative subjects such as fake goods, gambling, gay performances, touts and scams, Patpong, Nana, and Khaosan Road".

Prevented from banning the book outright due to Thailand's Constitution which upholds freedon of speech, Ms. Ladda's crusade against foreigners forthrightly discussing Thai life has caused major book resellers to hide the book, which had already sold thousands of copies, under their counters.

"We cannot control the publishers or prohibit them from printing this and that because the press has freedom to publish. So, all we can do is to take the problematic books off the shelves", says Ms. Ladda.

In particular Ms. Ladda objected to a photo of a Thai woman sitting on the lap of a male foreigner who was groping her.

Ms. Janwipa Apisook, the director of The Center for Sex Worker Protection (Empower) said that this type of photo is something commonly known among foreigners and Thai people themselves.

"There are worse cases in many other countries. But these books are sold only in certain places, not circulated in every bookstore. Most of them give lists of places where tourists can enjoy strange night shows. It is better than having foreigners destroying Thai women’s dignity by raping or harassing them like Thais do to their own fellow Thais,” Ms. Janwipa stated.

Police General Phansak Satsana-anan said that to publish such photos means risking the violation of law on pornography and corrupting the culture of the nation. If any officer comes across such books, they can confiscate them immediately. The publisher and seller might be sentenced up to three years of imprisonment or 6,000 baht fine, or both.

This law against "trade in obscene material", extremely broad and largely undefined, has been used by police recently to harrass a male celebrity who posed for nude pictures and an openly gay travel company that had copies of a non-pornographic English-language Thai gay scene magazine in its offices.

Thailand Inside Out is published by Asianscapes Publishing.

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