Thai health officials have listed 10 popular video games as dangerously violent following the reported confession of a teenager who claimed his murder of a taxi driver was inspired by playing "Grand Theft Auto."
"Violent video games have been a problem for a long time," Public Health Ministry spokesman Praj Boonyarowong said Friday. "Some parents don't know what their children are playing and are just happy they are not out of their sight. But these games can have very damaging psychological effect on children, especially games which depict violence so casually."
Furor over the killing compelled a local software distributor, New Era Interactive Media Co. Ltd, to announce it was halting sales and distribution of the game, which is a worldwide best-seller now in its fourth edition despite controversies over its depiction of violent street life.
Players progress in the game by successfully carrying out simulated criminal activities.
Police Capt. Veerarit Pipattanasak said Friday that Palawat Chinno, 19, was arrested Sunday at the wheel of a taxi whose 54-year-old driver was dead of stab wounds in the back seat.
Palawat was charged with murder, robbery and possession of a weapon and could face the death penalty if convicted, Veerarit said.
The police officer said an initial investigation showed that Palawat is an obsessive player of "Grand Theft Auto," but that the motive for the killing was still not certain. The suspect allegedly claimed that playing the game convinced him that robbing a taxi driver was not difficult but he didn't intend to kill anyone.
"Grand Theft Auto" has been blamed for contributing to violent crime in the U.S. and elsewhere. But defenders of such games point to the relatively few incidents reported, compared with the millions who play.
This past week, authorities in the U.S. state of Georgia said three teenagers were inspired by "Grand Theft Auto" when they destroyed three cars with Molotov cocktails in a tranquil north Atlanta suburb. One suspect admitted learning how to make the homemade firebombs from the game.
The ten games Thailand's Public Health Ministry suggested parents keep their children from playing are: Grand Theft Auto; Manhunt; Scarface; 50 Cent Bulletproof; 300 The Videogame; The Godfather; Killer-7; Resident Evil 4; God of War; and Hitman Blood Money.
The ministry did not say how it selected the games, but they match exactly a list of "top ten most violent" video games issued last December by a public prosecutor in Detroit in the U.S.
Thailand's official National Cultural Commission has said it would set up a committee to study violent video games.
"If the committee decides the games are dangerous, we may ask the distributors to halt distribution," said Preecha Kantiya, the commission's secretary general.
He said the ministry will also work with the police to check that online gaming sites are licensed and will block Web sites that offer violent games.