Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Finally, a lightning rod for anger at misrule

Oct 29. 2018
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By The Nation

But rather than punishing performers behind viral protest video, junta must now start listening 

With 20 million YouTube hits in the space of seven days, it’s the hottest rap single anywhere right now. But more importantly, the response to “Prathet Ku Mee…” (“My Country’s Got…”) dispels any doubt over the frustration building in Thai society after more than four years of junta rule. The performers known as Rap Against Dictatorship have produced a lightning rod for growing anger, winning more than three quarters of a million “likes” in a week. 

The song’s lyrics plainly reflect a collective conscience and a national crisis. 

The response from thin-skinned Thai authorities was as quick as it was predictable. The 10 underground Thai rap artists could now face legal action over the video, the country’s top cop warned.

The video re-enacts an infamous scene from the Thammasat University massacre of October 6, 1976, of the corpse of a student protester being beaten as it hangs from a tree in Sanam Luang. The masked performers hit the “corpse” in time to the beat, cheered on by a crowd of young people.

It isn’t the first time that Thai artists have evoked this barbarous moment in our modern history. But used in the context of rap, with its straightforward lyrics, the music video is an irresistibly powerful denunciation of all that is wrong with Thailand. 

The team spent almost a year working on the tune and music video. The result is a searing attack on the hypocrisy of military dictatorship, and the deep political divide that saw killing on both sides.

The artists sought to reflect their view of a society numbed to dictatorship and trapped in its shadow. They should be applauded for expressing out loud the very things that are on so many people’s minds, lying unspoken for fear of penalties against free speech.

The police have threatened the rappers with “attitude adjustment” and legal charges for placing “false information” in cyberspace. 

Deputy National Police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul said on Friday the Technology Crime Suppression Division would study the lyrics to see if they violated any junta orders.

Obviously, the principle of freedom of expression does not govern police work. Srivara cited the Computer Crime Act, among other laws, but as has become routine, exploited it in the name of 

security.

In a free and open society, protest songs do not attract police threats. But Thailand is not a normal country, since those who govern do not have legitimacy.

And when artists hold up a mirror to their faces, they don’t like what they see, reminded as they are of the bleak reality they have created.

Stoking public anger is that these same leaders are looking to return to power after the next election. 

They have rigged the system in order to do so, yet they know that it 

won’t be smooth sailing.

They can’t keep silencing the people, since there will always be those who dare to speak out against injustice.

The military never had a legitimate place in public office. But if they do choose to enter public life, perhaps they could start listening to the voices of others, be they artists or concerned citizens. 

Hiding behind the Computer Crime Act to stifle all dissent is just bad politics and will only lead the country back in the direction of tyranny, regardless of whether an election is held.

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