Star Wars in Thailand

Last updated September 29, 2002
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Some Star Wars fan art that substitutes Star Wars characters into popular Thai movie posters.

Thai Attack of the Clones cereal boxes - September, 2002

A series of cereal boxes in Thailand have interesting prizes. Below are four cards (almost life size) that when tilted, show alternate images. The white rectangles can be used to show hidden images of Star Wars characters on the side of the box. Click here for large sized scans of the boxes themselves.

Tilting reveals the same image with light sabers crossed

Titling reveals two Trade Federation battle droids

Tilting reveals the same background with Jango Fett

Titling reveals young and old Obi-Wan

Our digital theater! - May 16, 2002
Don Entz points out: If the Bangkok Post is right, we should be able the see the new Star Wars film in digital. On the last page of the "Database" section, in a column called "Home Review," it says Major Cineplex spent 100 million baht to install a digital projector to show "Star Wars: Episode II --- Attack of the Clones," which opens on Friday; the all-digital version will be shown at Major Cineplex Rama III, and you will pay 150 baht for the pleasure.

Yes, you can see Attack of the Clones in full digital glory in Bangkok.
1. It's theater 9 at Rama III.
2. It's a 300+ (?) seat theater.
3. Like most of the new Thai theaters, it can get extremely cold. Bring a jacket.
4. The seats have plenty of leg room in front, but they are bolted down in groups of three with the seat backs touching. This means that when someone in the group of three seat moves, your seat back moves like someone is kicking it--a weird design flaw.
5. It costs 150 baht per ticket. You can try to reserve tickets online here (select "Rama III" on the popup--sometimes this seems to work and sometimes you get a message that says there is no program info for Rama III). Also here.
6. Be aware that the opening "A long time ago...," the words 'Star Wars,' and the 'crawl' are in Thai. The rest is subtitled in Thai with the original English. The only other consideration is in the few sections where aliens speak languages other than English. In these cases the English subtitling has been replaced with Thai.
Still, if you're going to see Clones, see it the way it was meant to be seen. Since Roger Ebert says there's only 19 screens in the U.S. showing it digitally (out of about 3000), this is a good deal.

It doesn't matter if it's digital if the power goes off - May 19, 2002
On May 19, we went to the digital theater again for the 11:00am show. Unfortunately, the power went off twice near the end. Finally, they turned off the projector during the last scene when Anakin and Padme are standing on the terrace on Naboo and told everyone to go home. Many in the audience stood up and shouted to the projectionist to continue showing the film. After a long pause, they turned the projector on for a few seconds to prove to the audience the credits were the next scene. As with most films shown in Thailand, they never show the credits...

"Attack of the Clone" - May 26, 2002
In the theaters in Bangkok, collectible mini-posters (half-sheets) are handed out, each with a different character on it (stickers similar to these sheets have been scanned on On the back is a write-up about the character. However, the first line contains an amusing typo, referring to the film as "Attack of the Clone" (as opposed to "Clones").

MONKS SEEING DOUBLE: Echoes of dharma in 'Star Wars'
Paisarn Likhitpreechakul, The Nntion, May 26, 2002

(the article online--however, since the Nation's links change several times in the first week after an article is online, we are reprinting it here)

Director George Lucas is lucky Lord Buddha didn't copyright his teachings

"In whom there is neither fraud nor conceit. Who is without greed. Unselfish. Desireless. With anger quelled, his mind quenched. He is a - Jedi?"

Buzzzz! Wrong answer. Thank you for participating in "The Weakest Link". You may step down.

Although we have learned that the Jedi code says: "A Jedi shall not know anger. Nor hatred. Nor love", the correct answer to this question is a "bhikkhu" or monk, according to the Udana section of the Buddhist cannon. The verse is said to have been uttered by none other than the Lord Buddha himself.

Now try again. Who said, "Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering." If you think the answer is "Buddha", then you're wrong again. It's actually the top Jedi master Yoda. (Notice how similar the names sound).

Anyone familiar with Buddhism can spot its parallels with the Star Wars' Jedi order, particularly in George Lucas' latest instalment. This clone-like copying gives a new and quite literal meaning to the film title "Attack of the Clones." Incidentally this is also Episode II. Anyone seeing double?

Lucky Lucas can get away with it without paying royalty fees, because the Buddha didn't copyright his teachings or Dharma, describing them as the universal truth which he had only discovered, not created. And if that sounds familiar, perhaps you're thinking of The Force, described by Yoda in these words: "Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Feel the force around you . . . Here, between you and me, the tree, the rock."

This sci-fi franchise is long known for its religious overtones, which differentiate it from the next-in-line Star Trek with its secular techno-babble. Lucas himself admitted in a Time magazine interview before Episode I: "I see 'Star Wars' as taking all the issues that religion represents and trying to distil them down into a more modern and easily accessible construct, that there is a greater mystery out there." Nodding 'Star Wars' fans say this mystical side taken to mythical proportion gives the films their "soul".

Although Lucas borrowed freely from many myths and several religions - Anakin's virgin birth and the larger theme of the fall, wandering, return and redemption are unmistakably Biblical - there is a strong Buddhist flavour to it that has been called by one critic "the second coming of the Beatles and their Maharishi Yogi, a conspiracy to lead our youngsters away from Christianity into Zen Buddhism . . . or worse." Talk about paranoia!

Like any good myth, "Star Wars" can be interpreted in many ways and on more than one level. The theme of the battle between the forces of good and evil is as old as civilisation itself. It can be traced back 2,500 years ago to Iran, where the Zoroastrians believed that Earth was the field where the war between good and evil was played out. On this level, the movie "borrows" much from Japan. Lucas' Jedi are obviously modelled on samurai - watch how they hold their light sabres - whose Bushido philosophy combines Zen Buddhism and Taoism. Another give-away are many of Amidala's outfits and hair-dos, which are obviously Japanese rip-offs.

The movie also gives a veiled "Free Tibet" message. It suggests the planet Naboo as Tibet, threatened by the vaguely Chinese-looking Trade Federation bad guys to the point that its leader (read Dalai lama) had to flee. "Amidala" is a resemblance of Amitabha, a future Buddha, just like the Dalai Lama. And her other name "Padme", meaning lotus, is taken from the Tibetan chant, "Om mani padme hum" ("The jewel is in the lotus").

However, like the Indian epics "Mahabharata" and "Ramayana", "Star Wars" can also be read on another level. The common thread among these sagas is the notion, more in line with Theravada Buddhism as practised in Thailand, that the real battle is an internal one. The spiritual journey is often described in Buddhism as a war against Mara and his army, the personification of all defilement. (One of the Buddha's epithets says "one who has won the most difficult of wars".)

In Episode II, Anakin, now 19 years old, is shown to be gradually swerving away from the Jedi order and veering to the "dark side." In one scene he is told to practise compassion and turn away from attachments and possessions, for they lead to the fear of loss. But the request is to no avail. Anakin will fall in love with Amidala and slaughter those who killed his mother. Besides, he's seen to become arrogant with his abilities, swearing at his teacher Obi-wan. These are easily identifiable as the Buddhist concept of the three roots of evil: desire, anger and ego.

In Yothajivasutta, in the Buddhist cannon, Buddha compares a monk to a warrior. He says there are those warriors who give up a battle for three reasons: seeing the dust from the enemy camp, seeing the enemy flag, and hearing the thundering sound of the enemy army, while others engage with the enemy and fight all the way to victory.

Likewise, a monk's battle is against the temptation of sex. He says there are monks who give up celibacy at 1) hearing about a woman, 2) seeing a woman, 3) being talked to by a woman and 4) being touched by a woman. Then there are those monks who do not yield to such temptations. By this standard, it is obvious that Anakin's resistance fails at the very first round. (He was already a goner when he learned that he would see Amidala again).

Seen in that sense, the real "Star Wars" are the ones in our minds, and each of us is, like Anakin, an apprentice Jedi who struggles against the temptations of the "dark side", not necessarily to the same end. Perhaps on the occasion of Visakha Bucha this year it may be appropriate to say to each other: "May the Force be with you."

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