Thai junta bans computer game simulating dictatorship

AFP, Tuesday 5 Aug 2014

Thailand's junta has banned a computer game which allows players to craft their own military dictatorship in a fictional paradise where "sunny beaches and political corruption" co-exist, authorities said Tuesday.

The simulation game Tropico 5 gives players the chance to build their own forms of government on a remote island.

It is sold under the tagline: "Imagine a place where the people never go hungry, all work has a decent wage and the weather is forever bright and sunny -- just make sure you always vote El Presidente."

"Tropico 5 has been banned but I cannot give the reason unless you ask permission from our Director-General," an unnamed official at the Video and Film Office, part of the Ministry of Culture, told AFP.

Thai game distributor New Era Interactive Media said it received a letter from the Ministry of Culture on Monday banning its sale in the kingdom.

The company's marketing manager Nonglak Sahavattanapong told AFP late Monday it was "disappointed" by the move to ban the game, made by Bulgarian game developer Haemimont.

She said it had been blocked "because some parts of stories within the game affect Thailand's situation".

She did not give further details of the offending storylines, but said "players can play roles as a leader of a country -- they can choose systems of how to run the country".

The Ministry of Culture now falls under the remit of the Thai Navy Chief -- a deputy leader of the junta -- following the fall of the battered civilian administration to a May 22 army coup.

On the website, the game is trailed as giving players a "land of opportunity: a blank slate where any political ideal or mad inspiration can be made possible".

Since seizing power, Thai Army Chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha has suspended democracy, muzzled dissent and imposed sweeping curbs on media freedoms as he bids to end years of bitter political divisions.

He has launched a "return happiness" to the people public relations campaign in parallel with the crackdown on dissent.

A newly-appointed national assembly will meet for the first time this week.

It is charged with forging a binding constitution which analysts say is likely to target the influence of billionaire former premier Thaksin Shinawtara, who is accused by the Bangkok-based establishment of fomenting widespread corruption.

He was ousted in a 2006 coup and lives in self-exile, but still occupies centre-stage in Thailand's political drama.

Parties led by a Shinawatra, or linked to them, have won every election since 2001.

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