Thailand: Opera composer forced to alter scene of his work

30 November 2006
The military-ruled Thai government forced an opera composer to alter the final scene of his work, claiming that it transgressed the tradition of the classical dance genre to which his opera belongs

Somtow Sucharitkul’s opera ‘Ayodhya’ was to have ended with a character facing aviolent death. However, according to Southeast Asian Press Alliance, Thailand’s Ministry of Culture said scenes depicting death are traditionally discouraged in the classical dance of “khon” for fear of provoking bad luck. A compromise was reached to show the death off-stage.

Even so, the ministry only allowed the opera to premier on 16 November 2006 after Somtow signed a contract stating that the production would not harm local culture and morals, failing which it would be shut down in mid-performance.

“The ministry feels it has the right to impose a blanket restriction on a work of art. This is a chilling and positively Stalinist concept,” the English-language newspaper The Nation quoted Somtow as saying.

Thailand’s interim constitution, hastily created to replace the 1997 “People’s” Constitution that was torn up by the military when it staged a coup d’etat on 19 September, does not explicitly guarantee freedom of expression, beyond “basic rights, human dignity and equality.”

Further information
For further information, contact Chuah Siew Eng at SEAPA, 538/1 Samsen Road, Dusit, Bangkok, 10300 Thailand, tel: +662 243 5579, fax: +662 244 8749,

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Source – October 2006:
‘Musicians : fly through Paris at your own peril’

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