Thailand approved the controversial new Film and Video Act yesterday during the last days of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), the interim parliament installed by the military junta until Sunday's general election.

The new law will see the launch of a film rating system for the first time, which in itself is a milestone for the country's film history. The complex ratings include P for films with educational value, G for all age groups, 13 for people aged 13 or above, 15, 18 and 20.

But it is seen as more restrictive and harsh in nature than the existing Film Act of 1930. The government has the power to ban films which are deemed to disrupt social order, national security or the pride of the nation. The chief of police and other government officials will sit on the ratings board with no representatives from the film industry. It remains unclear when and how the new law will be implemented.

By passing the new law, the government played deaf to the protests staged by the Thai filmmakers. The withdrawal of Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Syndromes And A Century from theatres in April triggered the Free Thai Cinema Movement.

The NLA also passed the even more controversial Internal Security Operations Command and more than two dozen bills yesterday.