Upside-down letters trigger film ban in Cambodia

Upside-down letters trigger film ban in Cambodia

Upside-down Cambodian letters on shields of riot police in Hollywood film 'No Escape' looked strange to many, but have now led to ban in Cambodia for misuse of Cambodian culture.

Riot police shields in the film "No Escape" shot in Thailand have offended Cambodians, leading to the banning of the film in Cambodia (Source: YouTube screen capture)


Upside-down Cambodian letters: Film-banned in Cambodia

The soon-to-be-released Hollywood action film "No Escape" shot in the Chiang Mai area in 2013 will be banned in Cambodia, according to the Phnom Penh Post (See here).

It only took a viewing of the film's trailer to get the film banned.

Upside-down Cambodian letters (Khmer script) adorn the shields of riot police.

Cambodian or Khmer letters printed the correct way. (Source: Wikipedia)

No one really knows why the film's producers did this, but there has been a lot of speculation.

Cambodian officials apparently believe the upside-down Cambodian letters were added to make it clear that the film was not about Thailand so the film could be shot in Thailand.

However, the upside-down letters have led to yet other issues related to the misuse of the Cambodian language and culture.

After an angry reception on Facebook, the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts stepped in and banned the film.

Scenes in which riot police clash with an angry mob might bring back memories of real-life events in the recent history of Thailand.

But some say the violent uprising in the film bears greater resemblance to the Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia in 1975. Although threats of "civil war" in Thailand were made prior to the 2014 coup (see mention here), the levels of violence were relatively subdued and there was never anything like the frightening summary executions under the Khmer Rouge which are also depicted in the film. There was also never any threat to foreigners or tourists during the nearly decades-long Thai protests that were brought to an end by the coup, after which peace followed.

Execution of foreigner from the trailer of the film 'No Escape'.

In the film, people also wear kramas which is a Cambodian item of dress. A krama is a traditional Cambodian piece of cloth with a checkered red and white pattern used as a headcover, a scarf and even to carry children. The cloth is a Cambodian national symbol. The Thai version worn in the Isan region is known as pha khao ma (ผ้าขาวม้า) (See here).

Gun pointed at head of foreigner in film 'No Escape'. Also note Cambodian Krama being worn by person on the left.

The film is about a US businessman whose family gets caught in an imaginary Southeast Asian country during a violent uprising.

The well-known actor Owen Wilson plays the businessman who teams up with ex-James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan.

Although local distributors in Cambodia won't be showing the film in cinemas, one might question how important this ban might be when most people might be able to view the film over the internet. 

For more on the film 'No Escape' read previous article here.

Second place in film trailer where upside-down Khmer letters can be seen, or are they right-side up?

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  • according to (prep): as stated or reported by somebody/something - ตามคำบอกเล่า, ตามรายงาน
  • actor (noun): a person in a drama on TV, a movie or on stage - นักแสดงชาย
  • adorn: to make something/somebody look more attractive by decorating it or them with something - ตกแต่ง, ประดับ
  • apparently: based only on what you have heard or think, not on what you are certain is true; seemingly - ตามที่ได้รู้มา
  • ban: officially not allowed to do something - การห้ามอย่างเป็นทางการ
  • banned: officially prevented from doing something - ห้าม ห้างอย่างเด็ดขาด
  • censorship: removing the parts of a book, film/movie, internet content, etc. that are considered to be offensive, immoral or a political threat - การเซ็นเซอร์, การตรวจสอบสื่อต่างๆ เพื่อตัดส่วนที่ไม่เหมาะสมออก
  • cinema (noun): movie theater, movie house - โรงภาพยนต์
  • clash: a brief fight between two or more people - การปะทะกันสองฝ่าย
  • clothe: to provide clothes for somebody to wear; to dress somebody/yourself -
  • coup: the seizure of power in a country by a group of people, usually members of the armed forces - รัฐประหาร
  • culture (noun): the customs and beliefs, art, way of life and social organization of a particular country or group - วัฒนธรรม
  • decades: periods of ten years - เป็นสิบๆปี
  • depict: to represent or show something in a picture or story - พรรณนา, บรรยายให้เห็นภาพ
  • distributor: a person or company that supplies goods to shops/stores, etc - ผู้ค้าส่ง, ผู้แทนจำหน่าย, ผู้แจกจ่าย
  • execution (noun): the act of killing somebody, especially as a legal punishment; capital punishment - การประหารชีวิต
  • history (noun): all the events that happened in the past - ประวัติศาสตร์
  • imaginary: existing only in your mind or imagination - ซึ่งสมมุติขึ้น, ซึ่งไม่มีอยู่จริง
  • issue: matter; a subject that people discuss or argue about - ประเด็น
  • local: in the country (being talked about) -
  • memory (noun): something that you remember from the past; the ability to remember information, experiences and people - ความจำ
  • ministry: a government department that has a particular area of responsibility - กระทรวง
  • misuse (verb): to use something in an unsuitable way or in a way that was not intended - ใช้ในทางที่ผิด
  • mob (verb): (of a crowd) to gather round someone/something, often in order to gain attention - ห้อมล้อม, รุมล้อม
  • national (adjective): for the whole country - แห่งชาติ, ของชาติ
  • officials: people who have the power to make decisions or enforce the law - เจ้าหน้าที่ผู้มีอำนาจ
  • pattern: a regular arrangement of lines, shapes, colours, etc. as a design on material, carpets, etc - ลวดลาย
  • real-life (adj): things that "really" happen in people's everyday life - ซึ่งเกิดขึ้นในชีวิตจริง
  • recent: happening or starting a short time ago - เร็วๆ นี้
  • reception: the way in which someone or something is received or welcomed - การต้อนรับ
  • relate to: to be connected with something/somebody; to refer to something/somebody - เชื่อมโยงกับ
  • relatively: somewhat; in comparison with someone or something similar - ค่อนข้าง
  • release: the act of making something available to the public - การนำออกแสดง, การออกวางจำหน่าย
  • resemblance (noun): the fact of being or looking similar to somebody/something - ความคล้ายคลึง, ความเหมือนกัน
  • riot police: police who are trained to deal with violent groups of people - ตำรวจปราบจราจล
  • scarf: a piece of cloth that is worn around the neck, for example for warmth or decoration. Women also wear scarves over their shoulders or hair - ผ้าพันคอ
  • scene: a part of a film/movie, play or book in which the action happens in one place or is of one particular type - ฉาก, ตอน
  • script: the letters used to write a language -
  • shield: an object that police officers carry in order to protect themselves - เกราะ
  • shot: when somebody makes a film/movie - ถ่ายภาพ
  • speculation: ideas or discussion about what might happen or has happened or why something has happened without having complete information - การคาดการณ์
  • step in (verb): intervene in a situation; mediate - เป็นผู้ไกล่เกลี่ย, เป็นสื่อกลาง, ไกล่เกลี่ย
  • subdued: not very active; relatively quiet -
  • summary: done very quickly -
  • symbol: someone or something that represents a particular idea or quality - สัญลักษณ์
  • threat: a danger - อันตราย
  • traditional (adj): of a custom, a way of life or a way of doing things that has not changed for a long time - เป็นประเพณี, ตามธรรมเนียม, ตามที่ปฏิบัติกันมา
  • trailer: a short preview of a movie to advertise the film and get people to watch it -
  • uprising: a political situation in which a large group of people opposes and tries to defeat the government or a ruler - การลุกฮือขึ้นก่อการปฏิวัติ
  • upside-down: in or into a position in which the top of something is where the bottom is normally found and the bottom is where the top is normally found - พลิกเอาด้านบนลงล่าง, กลับหัวกลับหาง
  • violence: physical force with the deliberate intention of causing damage to property or injury or death to people - ความรุนแรง, การใช้กำลังทำลาย
  • violent: involving or caused by physical force that is intended to hurt or kill somebody - รุนแรง, ร้ายแรง, สาหัส
  • well-known (adj.): famous, everyone knows about it - ซึ่งมีชื่อเสียง, ซึ่งเป็นที่รู้จักกันดี, เป็นที่รู้จัก, เลื่องลือ
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