As Thai police reportedly prepare to arrest “Rap Against Dictatorship,” the group of musicians and producers behind the viral anti-junta song “Prathet Ku Mee” (What My F**king Country’s Got), a growing number of prominent politicians and celebrities have vocalized their support for freedom of speech on social media.
This morning, Pol. Maj. General Surachet Hakapan, deputy director of the Technology Crime Suppression Division, declared that police are working to identify and arrest the artists within the week, reported Workpoint.
The rappers seemed to have touched a nerve as evidenced by the collection of a jaw-dropping 18 million views on Youtube in less than a week of the video’s posting.
Shot in black and white, the video features rappers from the Rap Against Dictatorship collective dishing out barbs about the military and blasting corruption, censorship and the lack of elections, which are tentatively scheduled for February after many delays.
“The country where you must choose to suck truth or a bullet,” one rapper says, wearing sunglasses with a bandana wrapped around his mouth.
Several lyrics appear to go after junta leader Prayut Chan-ocha.
Authorities believe that the rappers have violated the Computer Crimes Act by uploading false information, undermining national security and causing public panic — punishable by five years in prison and a fine of THB10,000 (US$300).
Many netizens, however, disagree and refuse to go quietly about it.
Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the liberal Future Forward Party and a rising star on the Thai political landscape, has publicly commended the artists’ use of “soft power” in defying the junta’s rule.
I always say soft power like music and literature is a critical force to push the society towards progressive future. Rap Against Dictatorship has done a great job with #ประเทศกูมี. They show the world that we Thais do not surrender to the Junta’s rule. https://t.co/Z0QkDurDlS
— Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit (@Thanathorn_FWP) October 26, 2018
Though standing on another political side, Abhisit Vejjajiva, former prime minister and current leader of the Democrat Party, shares Thanatorn’s sentiment.
Whether you like the song should remain a personal matter and shouldn’t mean the artists are breaking the law, Amarin TV reported Abhisit as saying. He added that one doesn’t have to agree with the content of the song to believe that criminalizing it would violate citizens’ freedom of speech.
Oh, and he apparently enjoys rap. Who would have thought?
Panthongtae “Oak” Shinawatra, the Thailand-based son of ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra, who’s currently living in self-imposed exile after being overthrown in the 2006 military coup, wrote a lengthy Facebook status teasing the current government for helping the musicians gain popularity with their scrutiny.
“On Wednesday, the song went dark, not even making the top 10 searches in Google Thailand… after the government and police declared their arrest target on Friday however…. there were suddenly 200,000 Google searches,” he wrote, adding a photo showing the song to be the number one trend of the search engine.
“Leave them to express their thoughts … We are all citizens who love our country. We have different thoughts and ways of expressing ourselves. Shouldn’t the older generation be accepting of different opinions in order to set a good example for the youth?”
Famed Thai actor Rattapoom “Film” Tokongsup, meanwhile, known for role in movies Ruk jung and Rak Aow Yu, also offered his two cents via Instagram.
“There are a lot of good aspects of Thailand, but these musicians chose to talk about the dark thoughts that Thai citizens have had a long time now. I want to offer my support for these kids. They are very talented and didn’t do any wrong,” he wrote yesterday.
“Don’t be scared guys. Thailand belongs to all of us,” Rattapoom said, adding that he’s practicing the rap.
As of press time, the “Rap Against Dictatorship’ team has not responded to our request for comment.
After, reportedly, consulting with a legal team from the non-profit Human Rights Center, the team has decided to turn off the comments section of their youtube video.
On Saturday, the team declared on their Facebook page that the are still “safe,” and the support from the citizens is giving them inspiration to keep fighting, the post said.
“Though many don’t agree with the content of our song, we still believe in freedom of speech,” they wrote two days ago.
“We believe that Thais can come together to fight injustice, regardless of our opinions.”