The moment many netizens have been waiting for has arrived. Junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha has finally spoken out about the “Rap Against Dictatorship” collective, as the debate over their anti-junta song has made its way into the international press.
The current prime minister yesterday offered his thoughts about the viral track “Prathet Ku Mee” (What My F**king Country’s Got) — which has collected a jaw-dropping 21 million views on YouTube in a week since the video’s posting — to a small audience while visiting locals in northern Phayao province yesterday.
“Don’t care about the nonsense — all the things on the internet and social media. I don’t even know what this song is. Just ignore it. I ignored it. Why should I care?” he said, reported Khaosod.
He urged his audience to determine the song’s accuracy for themselves.
“Use your judgement. Is this song accurate? Is your life really that hard? Are we really that dictatorial?”
Despite saying he was ignoring it, the lyrics bothered him enough that he took time to deny the allegations of corruption made in the song, while claiming to be “tired” of defending himself against charges “driven by self-interest.”
“Don’t let anyone distort the truth. If we let things like this [the song] happen and value it as freedom of speech, your families, children and grandchildren will in be so much trouble. If this song reflects our society, I don’t think we would be able to live together. Don’t be their [the artists’] tool,” he continued.
While protesting about how little he cares, we’ll point out here that an active police investigation is ongoing, with the identification and arrest of the rappers being its primary objective.
As mentioned earlier, the conversation about the songs and its pointed criticisms of the government are gaining serious notice beyond Thailand’s borders.
Today, Human Rights Watch (HRW), an international NGO headquartered in New York that conducts research and advocacy on human rights, released a statement urging the junta to “immediately drop their criminal investigation” of the rap group.
The organization claims that taking criminal action against the artists violates the ‘International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights’ that prohibits restrictions on freedom of expression.
Thailand has been party to this covenant since 1997.
“Taking unwarranted criminal action against the group using oppressive laws will go a long way to proving the rappers’ point,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at HRW.
The organization claims that, since the junta took over in 2014, hundreds of activists have been prosecuted with serious criminal charges for peacefully expressing their views, while thousands more have been pressured to stop criticizing the government.
“Just months away from planned elections in February 2019, Thailand’s junta is increasingly suppressing free expression,” said Adams.
“Thailand’s friends should question whether a government threatening to prosecute a rap group for its critical lyrics is capable of holding a free and fair election.”