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Security officers raided a cafe in the Deep South of Thailand, seizing “Patani Colonial Territory”, a board game using a set of cards about the history of the colonisation of Patani by Siam. The authorities claimed the content ‘may be illegal’.

Security officers stand guard at Life Coffe Slow Bar on 28 November 2022.

The seizure took place at the Life Coffee Slow Bar in Bannang Sata District, Yala Province. On 28 November 2022, police and soldiers visited the cafe and seized the game without any warrant being shown. 

The authorities told Furqon Malee, the cafe owner, that they came after they heard that the cafe had been given a Patani Colonial Territory set by the game developer, Chachiluk Board Game, as announced on its Facebook page.

Furqon showed the officers the game and instruction leaflet. The officer informed him that the photos shown on the cards ‘may be illegal’ and said that the game must be investigated by the local police.

After Furqon insisted the game was not illegal, the police invited him to go to the police station. He objected to the invitation unless he had a lawyer present. After consulting the Muslim Lawyers Association, it was suggested that he should give the officers the game, which Furqon did. This ended the four-hour-long debate.

“My cafe may be the first one to have officers seize this card game.”

“This incident has made me feel quite pressured by the authorities,” said Furqon.

Ambitious, controversial game

According to the developer, Patani Colonial Territory was created under a project funded by Common School, an institution under the Progressive Movement Foundation, an organisation founded by members the now-banned Future Forward Party.

A set of Patani Colonial Territory.

“This set of cards collects histories and stories from local people in the form of a card game to enhance fun in learning, and create space for discussion only,” according to the game description from Chachiluk Board game.

In more than two decades of conflict, the Deep South has become a special zone where a state of emergency has been continuously in force for years. With the impunity granted by law to security officials, reports of human rights abuses by state agents in the Deep South are repeatedly being uncovered and the number of casualties keeps ticking upwards.

The game, however, traced a much longer history back to the time before the kingdom of Siam annexed the area. The game’s narrative seems to challenge the state’s attempts to defeat the insurgency which has been calling for more autonomy in the region. 

On 29 November 2022, the Yala Provincial Public Relations Office conveyed a message from Maj Gen Pramote Phrom-in, Deputy Director of the Internal Security Operations Command Region 4 Forward Command, a quasi-military civilian entity that take a major role in security matters in the area.

Pramote expressed his concern that the card game brought up the area’s painful history in a form of game. The game also contains misinformation such as a story about Malay people being enslaved, chained together by the Achilles heel and brought to Bangkok to dig canals.

He said this game is another example of history that has been made up with the goal of inciting the people. He also pointed out that the Common School is related to a political movement.

The historical details were also challenged made by Piti Srisangnam, Director of the Centre for International Economics, Chulalongkorn University. He said the claim of chaining by the Achilles heel has already been admitted to be incorrect by the academic community.  

He also urged the security authorities to consider the game’s raising an outdated claim in the Deep South.

The game was also targeted by a right-wing political party. Thai Pakdee Party spokesperson Suksan Sangsri submitted a petition to the Ministry of Interior Permanent Secretary to investigate everyone related to the development of the game, including the donor.

Dangerous game

This is not the first time the Thai authorities have targeted games in the name of national security. In August 2014, Tropico 5 was banned from sale in Thailand. The distributor stated that the Ministry of Culture believed that some of the game’s content may affect the country’s peace and order.

Tropico 5 commercial picture.

Tropico 5 is a simulation game where players become country leaders. One of the paths a player can choose is to become a military dictator who aims to create a militarised regime; this is the content that may have led to the game’s ban. The game could still be purchased online.

Apart from being banned by the state, the game has been labelled by the media and society as an incitement to crime and misbehaviour among children and youth. The surge in e-sports challenges these claims, but the impact of games on child development is still an ongoing debate.

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