Thailand bans computer game over national security concerns

Tropico 5 allows players to run a country by choosing to declare military rule

Mon, Aug 4, 2014, 17:24

Thailand’s military government has banned a computer game that allows players to declare martial law and run a dictatorship - or alternatively suffer a coup if they fail to keep the military happy - deeming the game a public threat to peace and order, the game’s distributor has said.

According to New Era Thailand’s marketing manager, Nonglak Sahavattanapong, censors at the ministry of culture banned sales of Tropico 5 as they believed it would impinge upon Thailand’s national security.

Tropico 5 allows players to run a country through the colonial era through to the present day. Assuming the role of “presidente” on a tropical island, the player can colonise new lands, draft constitutions and, in a series of options, can in effect choose to declare military rule and shut down democratic processes.

“It’s a good game with positive reviews,” Nonglak told the Associated Press. “We’ve had licences to distribute Tropico 3 and 4 before, but in the fifth instalment, the storyline has developed further and there might be some part of it that’s not appropriate in the current situation.”

It is unclear why exactly the game is considered a threat to national security in Thailand, although it could be argued that it hits too close to home. Thailand’s military has been ruling the country since General Prayuth Chan-ocha staged a coup in May - the country’s 18th in 80 years - effectively overthrowing a democratically elected government and holding a series of detentions in secret locations for activists, politicians, lawyers and journalists.

One prominent Red Shirt activist recently told Thai media that she was blindfolded, beaten and tortured in the three weeks she spent in detention. She has since fled the country and is seeking asylum in Europe.

Prayuth, who was internationally condemned for staging the coup, has come under further fire for his governance of Thailand since assuming power.

The number of people jailed under strict pro-monarchy lese-majesty laws has jumped to its highest level yet and, under the new interim constitution approved by the king, Thailand’s parliament now boasts twice as many military officers than its former pariah neighbour, Burma.

The media has been warned not to write or broadcast anything deemed detrimental to the ruling junta while a number of websites have been banned or suspended under government orders.

Tropico 5, the latest version of a game developed by Bulgarian developer Haemimont Games, was released on 23 May and subjected to approval by authorities under the 2008 Films and Video Act, which requires that officials screen all games before they are distributed in the kingdom.

The company will not be appealing against the junta’s decision, Nonglak said.

Guardian