Global Freedom of Expression

Tanwarin Sukkhapisit v National Film Board of Thailand

Closed Contracts Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Audio / Visual Broadcasting
  • Date of Decision
    December 25, 2015
  • Outcome
  • Case Number
  • Region & Country
    Thailand, Asia and Asia Pacific
  • Judicial Body
    Administrative Court
  • Type of Law
    Criminal Law
  • Themes
    Content Regulation / Censorship, Indecency / Obscenity
  • Tags
    Ban, Gender Identity/Sexual Orientation

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

In November 2010, Thailand’s Censorship Committee and the National Film Board banned the screening of the movie “Insects in the Backyard,” directed by Tanwarin Sukkhapisit. The film, which has been shown in a number of film festivals, concerns sexuality and gender identity in Thai society. The ban, however, found it against public order and morality because it contained scenes of sexual intercourse and prostitution by boys and girls while wearing student uniforms. In particular, it includes a three-second scene in which the main character is watching pornography.

Upon the denial, the director brought an action against the committee and the board in the Administrative Court of Thailand. In December 2015, the court dismissed the action on the ground that the movie was pornographic because of its scene depicting sexual intercourse. Pursuant to Article 287 of the Criminal Code, pornography is illegal because it is considered to be against public order and morality.

Columbia Global Freedom of Expression could not identify the official legal and government records on the case and that the information contained in this report was derived from secondary sources. It must be noted that media outlets may not provide complete information about this case. Additional information regarding this legal matter will be updated as an official source becomes available.


Insects in the Backyard” is a drama movie on LGBT rights; it concerns a family relationship in which the father is openly transsexual. However, he does his best as a father for his two children after his wife passed away while giving birth to the second child of the family. The two children, uneasy about their father’s gender identity, inform others that he is their sister. On November 4, 2010, Thailand’s Censorship Committee denied issuing permission to screen the movie, finding it against public order and morality. Then on November 23, 2010, the committee again denied the request filed by the film’s director, Tanwarin Sukkhapisit.

Subsequently, on December 18, 2010, the directer appealed the denial to the National Film Board of Thailand. The board affirmed denial on the grounds that the movie, among others, contained scenes of sexual intercourse and prostitution by boys and girls while wearing student uniforms. He then brought a lawsuit against the board in the Administrative Court of Thailand. She submitted the following arguments against the ban:

  • In violation of Article 37 of Administrative Procedure Act B.E. 2539 (1996), the Censorship Committee failed to cite to any law in rendering its decision to ban the film from screening.
  • The board did not allow the production team to explain the purpose of the film and the reason why it should not be banned.
  • The board’s decision only determined that the film was against public morality; in contrast to Article 37 of Administrative Procedure, it did not explain exactly which scenes or parts of the movie were against morality and why.
  • The movie does not contain scenes or parts affecting the monarchy, religion, harmony of the country, or international relations. Its overall theme only concerned Thai society’s sexuality and gender identity. And that the three-second scene of sexual intercourse could not be found against public morality.
  •  The banning order violated the principle of equality as several other films with similar themes or contents were given permission to be screened.

Decision Overview

The Administrative Court dismissed the lawsuit. It considered the movie as pornography, which is against pubic order and morality and illegal under to Article 287 of Thailand’s Criminal Code. This consideration was primarily based on the film’s three-second scene showing its main character watching a movie that contained sexual intercourse. While the Court did not find the film was intended to create sexual arousal, the impugned scene made the entire film illegal. It further ruled that the film could be given permission to be shown to individuals of at least 20 year of age if the director removed the scene and submitted the request to the National Board again.

Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Contracts Expression

The case marks the first case on film censorship under the Film and Video Act B.E. 2551 (2008) that has reached the Administrative Court of Thialand.

Global Perspective

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Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

National standards, law or jurisprudence

  • Thai., The Film and Video Act, art. 29
  • Thai., Crim. Code art. 287

Case Significance

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Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

This case did not set a binding or persuasive precedent either within or outside its jurisdiction. The significance of this case is undetermined at this point in time.

Official Case Documents

Reports, Analysis, and News Articles:

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