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Iconic Thai rappers get human rights award

May 27. 2019
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By THE NATION

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ANTI-JUNTA rapper group Rap Against Dictatorship (RAD) has won this year’s Vaclav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent, awarded by the New York-based Human Rights Foundation, the band has announced on its website.

The prize recognises those “who engage in creative dissent, exhibiting courage and creativity to challenge injustice and live in truth”, the international rights group noted.

The Thai musicians are among this year’s three laureates, which also include Ramy Essam, an Egyptian musician in exile, and Venezuelan political cartoonist Rayma Suprani. 

The international civil rights group awarded its creativity award to the Thai artists whose music criticised Thailand’s junta and justice system. 

RAD were threatened with legal action for their 2018 hit song “Prathet Ku Me” (“My Country’s Got …”).

Its video was downloaded more than 63 million times worldwide and made a great impression on Thailand’s social media users.

Two members of RAD – Liberate P and Jacoboi – are flying to Norway to attend the awards ceremony, which will be held at the Oslo Freedom Forum ,the same event that invited veteran Thai journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk to speak in 2015. 

“Please keep supporting us,” the group posted on their Facebook page.

The anti-dictatorship rap song that riled the junta-led government also sparked intense debate and hinted at a mood change in both the political and arts spheres in Thailand in 2018. 

The 10-member RAD used social media as an artistic weapon – the government tried to ban it, warning that its message and video footage replicating the 1976 massacre at Thammasat University violated the Computer Crime Act’s rules against spreading information inconsistent with the truth and also threatened national security. 

The effort failed, however – RAD cheated the censors by using blockchain technology to prevent the government from deleting the video or barring access to it.

Indeed, the video has polarised society, generating extreme points of view among people from all walks of life, from scholars and politicians to teenagers and monks.

The impact of this phenomenon reflects the fact that many Thais feel under stress, wanting to call for democracy while living under a dictatorial government.

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