9 Jan 2013

Thai TV drama axed

10:01 am on 9 January 2013

A Thai television network has cancelled a TV political drama amid fears it would breach broadcasting laws that prohibit material that could destabilise the country.

Nua Mek, a fantasy political drama about a fictitious prime minister controlled by an evil sorcerer, was axed just before the final episode of the second season was due to screen.

Channel 3 declared the episode socially divisive and said it made the decision without government interference.

Radio Australia reports that one theory behind the show's cancellation is that it was seen to parody the relationship between prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother and exiled former PM, Thaksin Shinawatra.

Government critics argue that Mr Thaksin still controls his sister, and the sorcerer on the TV series symbolises that relationship.

Dr Nicholas Farrelly from the Australian National University said many Thais may make a more literal interpretation.

"Among Thailand's political elite there continues to be a pretty significant strain of superstition," he said.

"We've had all sorts of talk over the years that Thaksin has perhaps dabbled in various darker arts that are available to those with the appropriate training and insights.

"That's usually dismissed as yet another effort to diminish his status in the eyes of his supporters, but the fact that the reality is in these kinds of cases is that most Thais are quite accepting of the fact that there are other powers that exist our universe."

The opposition Democrat Party suspects the government had a hand in getting the show axed. It wants the National Broadcasting Telecommunications Committee to explain the situation.

Dr Farrelly also said a film adaptation of Macbeth by Shakespeare was banned in April, because it would also cause division.

"Sad to say that at this point in the nation's history there are many people who are motivated to clamp down on anybody who they feel is presenting materials which are detrimental to their side of politics," he said.

"It strikes me that while Thai society can't accept such fictionalised portrayals of various political activities, then there's no way it's going to deal with the very real challenges that it faces here in the real world, and not the world on the TV."