The Ministry of Culture in Thailand is notorious for putting their foot in their mouth and basically being out of touch with the rest of the country. I am all for preserving culture and history but you also have to understand that it is a living and breathing entity. And anyway, much of what we see and call Thai culture today was re-invented during the 1940’s. Arguably, some chapters of Thai history were also re-written.
When Lady Gaga landed in Bangkok, she got more than she bargained for after tweeting that she wanted to head out to buy a fake Rolex. The do-gooders on social media immediately came down on her for dirtying the name of Thailand. Completely forgetting, of course, that not only is Thailand well known for selling fake goods, that the US has Thailand on a shortlist of countries to keep an eye on for IP violations. It was literally only a handful of people that complained. Most Thais didn’t bat an eyelid. But, embarrassingly, the headline ” Lady Gaga angers Thai fans with fake Rolex comment” went around the world.
Now it is the turn of the Ministry of Culture to step into the ring, almost one month after Lady Gaga has left. This time the headline going around the world is “Lady Gaga in Hot Water Over Bangkok Concert”. It’s all to do with the above scene in her concert where she came out wearing a skimpy costume, a Thai style headgear, and sitting on a motorbike with the Thai flag sticking out the back. According to AFP, the ministry said that this was “inappropriate and hurt Thai people’s sentiment”. They also mentioned that the three colours of the Thai flag represent the country, religion and monarchy.
There is also a Thai law (Penal Code Section 133) that protects the Thai flag from anyone who would alter it or use it in a way to deride the nation. The penalty is not more than two years in prison and/or a fine of not more than 4,000 Baht. It is rumoured that Mark Zuckerberg could be arrested and charged with multiple accounts for Lese Majeste if he ever came back to Thailand as he is very slow in deleting attacks against the Thai royal family on Facebook (A Thai forum owner was found guilty recently of being slow to delete similar comments). If the Ministry of Culture decides to press charges against Lady Gaga, then maybe it would be unwise for her to return too. This begs the question, who in their right mind would come to Thailand if they have to tread on eggshells?
Related blog: Lady Gaga angers Thai fans with fake Rolex comment