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Gay sex on film? No problem. Baring political rifts, problem.

Live and let live in Thailand. Except when one gay man is Buddhist, and the other is Muslim.

BANGKOK, Thailand — The gay sex scene alone would be enough to ban “This Area Is Under Quarantine” in many countries.

Filmed in a Bangkok hotel room, the scene offers lots of out-of-focus flesh, lots of fast breathing, lots of hands pawing at tighty whiteys.

But that’s not why Thailand’s Ministry of Culture banned the film, said 37-year-old director Thunska Pansittivorakul. His film was censored, he said, for baring the kingdom’s political rifts and showing raw footage of Thai soldiers detaining Muslims.

“The culture ministry told me it threatens the security of our nation,” Thunska said. “So they banned it.”

Thailand is well-known for its live-and-let-live attitude toward homosexuality and transsexuals. As long as films depicting gay erotic couplings don’t veer too close to pornography — i.e., penetration or full display of sex organs — they’re tolerated as well as any movie with heterosexual erotic scenes.

Learn more about the erotic East from Richard Bernstein.

But politics here remain raw as ever. An urban-rural class divide has played out in roaring street protests. Regions remain at political odds. And Muslim separatists continue a bombing and beheading campaign in Thailand’s deep south.

quarantine movie poster
A promotional poster for the banned film.
(Courtesy of Thunska Pansittivorakul)

In “Quarantine,” Thunska attempts to fuse the country’s varied tensions in back-to-back scenes. He pairs up two men, one from the insurgency-torn deep south and another from a poor rice-farming Northeast region.

One man is Buddhist, one is Muslim and both are gay. Before they become intimate, the film presents footage from the “Tak Bai” incident, a 2004 military crackdown on Muslim protesters. More than 80 men, detained and piled into the back of an army truck, died from suffocation in the heat.

Footage of the raid was circulated widely on YouTube and disseminated via CD to galvanize Muslims in southern Thailand against the government.

“It compares between violence the government has showered on the people and the intensity of the sex scene,” Thunksa said. “But the Tak Bai footage is something anyone could find on YouTube.”

Before it was submitted for government review, “Quarantine” was secretly shown five times in Thailand and publicly at the “International Film Festival Rotterdam.” Thunksa produced the film for less than $6,000, he said.

“The sex scene is quite erotic, because the camera is constantly moving and it’s cut very fast, so the effect is like a montage,” said Matthew Hunt, a cinephile and blogger in Bangkok who saw the film at a private screening.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/thailand/091106/did-gay-sex-get-film-banned-thailand-or-was-it-politics