THAILAND: Red faces after porn comics ordered off shelves

Organizers of Bangkok International Book Fair unable to check content of all books sold by over 800 vendors

Bangkok Post
Friday, April 6, 2007

By Anjira Assavanonda

A book distributor was ordered to take pornographic comic books off the shelf at the Bangkok International Book Fair yesterday following complaints from parents.

Deputy Prime Minister Paiboon Wattanasiritham went to the booth of Rung Wattana Panich, which sells a variety of used books at cheap prices, and found hundreds of translated Japanese cartoon books with pornographic images inside, many showing the characters having sex.

Members of the Foundation of Family Networks lodged a complaint with the deputy prime minister when they met him at the Family Day event.

They said they were shocked to find their children reading porn comics bought from the national book fair.

Pranee Chaloeyjitratham, 49, said her 18-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter had bought dozens of the used comic books on Wednesday. They sold for 10 baht each, and customers buying 10 books would get one free. All the books were wrapped in plastic.

"At first I thought they were just common cartoon books until I saw my children engrossed in reading them for the whole day," said Mrs Panee.

"When I interrupted, they looked upset. So I flipped over some pages after they put the books down and found this pornography inside."

She had not expected such material to be sold at the national book fair, which is said to help promote reading for children.

Another parent, who did not give her name, said her seven-year-old son asked her what the characters were doing after reading one of the comics. She was shocked when he showed it to her.

Thanachai Santichaikul, president of the Publishers and Booksellers Association of Thailand, the key organiser of the book fair, said he was sorry for what happened.

The national book fair, which ends next Tuesday, had been held for over three decades and the problem was unprecedented. It was difficult for the organiser to check every book sold at the fair, given that there are more than 800 selling booths.

"But we made it clear to every publisher and distributor that porn books are absolutely prohibited," said Mr Thanachai.

He would meet the foundation committee to discuss the problem and decide what to do with the distributor.

"Legal action is left to the police, but the foundation has its own rules. If we find the mistake to be intentional, the distributor could be banned from the event next time," he said.

The owner of Rung Wattana Panich was not at the booth yesterday.

A relative, Saowalak Rungthanapaiboon, said the shop sold used books which it bought in big lots from other publishers and distributors. They did not check the content of every book.

"If I knew these porn comics were on shelves, I wouldn't be working here. And I think the owner might not know either," said Ms Saowalak.