By Saksith Saiyasombut

Thailand’s National Knee-Jerk Outrage Machine (“กลไกสร้างปฏิกิริยาอย่างไร้ความยั้งคิดแห่งประเทศไทย”*), also known as the self-proclaimed cultural heralds of everything ‘Thainess’, have struck again! After clamping down on farang chefstopless Songkran dancers, religious tattoos on infidel skin, they are now targeting another absolutely inappropriate, un-Thai abomination: planking!!! Yes, the craze, where everyone lies face down in the most unusual places, has hit the interwebs faster than anyone can comprehend. It has also reached Thailand and some people are already fretting amidst when ‘traditional’ culture meets the ‘memes’.

The Culture Watch Centre warned yesterday that posting nude planking pictures on the Internet was a legal offence. “We will write to the National Police Office as well as the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Ministry to ask that they block [Web pages containing the pictures] and nail down the people who posted them,” the centre’s director Ladda Tangsupachai said. She said people who posted such pictures would face legal action for violating the 2007 Computer Crimes Act. Ladda also said that although it was not illegal to perform nude planking in private places, she warned people against it, saying that it was “not constructive” and “inappropriate”.

Nude planking photos online an offence”, The Nation, June  21, 2011

Well, well – “inappropriate”, again! Of course such a thing is not meant to be ‘constructive’, it’s a nonsensical gag just for laughs or ‘for the lolz’, as the kids today might say it. There’s absolutely no need to come down so hard – but then again, in the case of the topless Songkran dancers brouhaha a few months back, the Culture Minister and the police have set off a witch hunt against what turned out to be just teenagers (and not prostitutes or even ladyboys as some suggested) – and also the person who has uploaded the video was being prosecuted!

In related news…

Mahamakut Buddhist University’s assistant rector for legal affairs Songkran Atchariyasap said that after personally offering a reward of Bt5,000 for information identifying a man seen planking in a monk’s robe, he had obtained pictures and “crucial information”. He plans to give the information to the National Office of Buddhism today.

Nude planking photos online an offence”, The Nation, June  21, 2011

This comes after, obviously, a picture appeared online of a man planking in a monk’s robe. It didn’t took long until the Sangha Supreme Council, the order which oversees Thai Buddhism, disapproved that a religious item (the robe) has been used for a joke – we don’t even know if that guy is actually a monk or not.

But when there’s a crisis, there is also an opportunity:

Ladda said, however, she agreed with Pabpiab (polite squat sit), or “Thailand Planking”. “My praise goes to children who have done this. It’s like turning a crisis into an opportunity,” she said. (…)

Amnaj suggested that monks should begin “meditation planking” if they saw the trend as an opportunity to promote the practice of Lord Buddha’s teachings.

Nude planking photos online an offence”, The Nation, June  21, 2011

Look, here’s the problem: Ever wondered why rarely any of your proposed counter-measures against temporary fashions don’t work? You’re making it more attractive to people if you say it’s “inappropriate” or “un-Thai” (what is appropriately ‘Thai’ anyways?). Instead of just keeping quiet and wait until it fades out (and today’s internet memes die out fast), the self-proclaimed cultural heralds make a huge fuss about it. How about this for the next time, be a good role-model and not make a knee-jerk rant about protecting whatever you think is appropriate. Just ‘go with the lulz’ for once!

*thanks to fellow Siam Voices blogger Dan Waites for the terrific translation!

Saksith Saiyasombut is a Thai blogger and journalist still based in Hamburg, Germany. He can be followed on Twitter @Saksith.