A strong disclaimer could be better than a ban on films

No one can accuse the Thai censors of being brave and thoughtful in their work. Their motto seems to be: ''When in doubt, cut it out''.

But there might be another more realistic approach in dealing with films where a bit of ''artistic licence'' has been taken with the historical facts. Instead of banning such a film or cutting it up, the distributor could be forced to splice a strong disclaimer into the film just at the point where it is about to begin. It could be handled in any way that makes the approval board feel comfortable. It could be done with words written on the screen and narrated in a strong forceful Thai voice. Or, it could be inserted at the end of the film. Maybe a brief warning at the beginning and a more detailed explanation at the end -- whatever it takes to get the movie shown without being cut.

But when the Thai monarchy is depicted in a film, the film must also receive Royal blessing. No board will approve such a movie without it.

Banning the movie ''Anna and The King'' shows the world, already into the 21st century, that Thailand still has a long way to go in coming to terms with the 20th century.

I have lived in Thailand long enough, though, to understand the point of view of those who oppose the film being shown here. They are fearful that by approving the film they could face serious repercussions. Charges of lese majeste for one, another would be that of confusing the public by exposing them to historical inaccuracies about their country. They fear that many would view approval as an endorsement for these inaccuracies.

Inserting a disclaimer into the movie would seem to be a much more responsible and mature way of dealing with the problems the board has with the film.

Frankly, I would like to see all films that take strong liberties with the historical facts, as ''Braveheart'' and ''JFK'' did, also be required to state so at the end of the film.

Tony Dabbs



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