Thailand’s largest music festival got political, then it got shut down

Members of ‘Sweet Mullet’ on stage Saturday night at the Big Mountain Music Festival in Nakhon Ratchasima province. Photo: Sweet Mullet / Facebook
Members of ‘Sweet Mullet’ on stage Saturday night at the Big Mountain Music Festival in Nakhon Ratchasima province. Photo: Sweet Mullet / Facebook

When metalcore act Sweet Mullet took the stage Saturday night, they wore rescue worker uniforms and carried a “corpse” in a blood-soaked shroud, widely seen as representing Thai dissidents abducted and executed abroad. 

It was one of many moments when politics took the stage at Thailand’s largest music festival this past weekend, which officials shut down before it was over. Organizers of the Big Mountain music festival in Nakhon Ratchasima province today are offering ticket refunds after being forced to cancel several hours early on its second day, ostensibly due to COVID-19 concerns.

“We know that what happened let you down and hurt your feelings,” organizers announced online last night. “We’re happy to refund your tickets.”

An estimated 80,000 attended the event. After being ordered to shut down early Sunday afternoon, organizers didn’t get the order until 10pm. Nakhon Ratchasima health officials and the provincial governor blamed crowd on crowd sizes, a lack of masks worn by attendees, and people “shouting” along to the music. Under the emergency decree in place since March, local officials can take any measures deemed necessary in the name of containing the coronavirus, which all but vanished from the kingdom nine months ago.

Many rejected the idea that it was shut down due to COVID. #BigMountain was trending atop Thai Twitter today, where many condemned it as a pretext for censorship after the festival became center stage for the pro-democracy movement, which has seen tens of thousands take to the street to demand the government step down and monarchy submit to reforms.

On the festival’s first day, many musicians expressed solidarity with pro-democracy protesters by flashing three finger salutes, bringing rubber ducks – a protest icon – on stage, along with displays such as Sweet Mullet’s stage theatre.

“They aren’t afraid of COVID spreading but democracy spreading thoughts that will destroy dictatorship,” Move Forward MP Rangsiman Rome tweeted.

“The cancellation of #bigmountain2020 due to COVID is understandable,” wrote Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn another of the progressive political party’s MPs. “But the thing that people question is why Red Cross festivals in many provinces didn’t get canceled as well, including one in Ayutthaya that [Health Minister Anutin Chanvirakul] attended. People were also packed there,” referring to a Friday event.

Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly indicated that organizers did not receive the order until late Sunday. In fact, it came in the early afternoon and they refused to comply until 10pm, two hours before it was to end.

Read more stories from Coconuts Bangkok here


Support local news and join a community of like-minded
“Coconauts” across Southeast Asia and Hong Kong.

Join Now
Coconuts TV
Our latest and greatest original videos
Subscribe on