Updated at 8:54 ET on 2018-10-30
A local rap band’s profanity-laced online music video, which does not hold back in ripping Thailand’s junta, has exploded on social media particularly since the deputy national police chief threatened action three days ago.
The five-minute black-and-white video by the band that calls itself Rap Against Dictatorship, or RAD, had topped the iTunes charts in Thailand and was close to surpassing 21 million views on Facebook as of early Tuesday (local time). In it, the 10 band members strut and rap against the backdrop of scenes reenacting an infamous military massacre of student protesters at a Bangkok university in 1976.
“We are confident that we do not break the laws. Ten of us co-wrote the lyrics. We did not make up the contents,” Jacoboi, one of the members of the band told BenarNews, adding similar criticism of the military government was widely available online.
“Nobody is arrested yet. We are all safe but what happened around us makes us worry,” he said.
By Monday evening, police had not taken action against the band over its Oct. 22 posting of the video called “Which Country Has” in English, although the nation’s No. 2 police official issued a warning to the rappers on Friday, according to Thai media reports.
The band may have broken Thai laws by releasing its single online, and the Police Technology Crime Suppression Division was to scrutinize the video’s lyrics, Pol. Gen. Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, the deputy national police chief said, according to The Nation newspaper.
He said members would also be summoned to testify if they had intended to cause any chaos or violate any orders from the National Council for Peace and Order – the formal name for Thailand’s junta.
“I want to warn musicians to not do anything that risks violating the country’s laws, as it will not be good for them or their families if the songs are found to be violating the law,” the Nation quoted Srivara on Friday.
Free speech and public assembly have been tightly controlled under Thailand’s junta, which seized power in a coup in May 2014 but, after many postponements, has promised to hold the first general election sometime within the first half of next year.
On Friday, the video had generated some 4 million views on Facebook, but that figure has multiplied five-fold in the past three days.
On Monday, officers at the Technology Crime Suppression Division met but had yet to conclude whether charges could be brought against the group, Srivara told reporters.
“Initially there is no clue yet, but we haven’t done with examining evidence. We need to handle it carefully to find the intent,” he said.
‘Don’t tell me I can choose’
The music video is laden with anti-junta lyrics and criticism of the military’s suppression of free speech, the long-delayed national polls and corruption.
“You don’t know what this frickin’ country has ... we all will tell you ...” one of the band’s members raps in the opening scenes.
“... The country [where] its capital heart turned into killing fields, the country that leaders eat taxes like a sweet meal, this is my country, this my country,” the song goes on to say, alluding to the killings 42 years ago of students who were protesting against the military at Thammasart University.
The video also deals with present-day Thailand.
“Free country, F_ck it! Don’t tell me I can choose. Even the PM is still picked by [the] army ... This is my country,” the rappers sing.
Natthapong Srimuang, the band’s founder, defended the controversial video, saying the rappers had made it to heal a rift among the Thai people.
“As we see it, the main troubles are not only about the corruption or the military, but the polarization of the people,” Natthapong told local media. “We tried to wake them up, unite them to find common solution.”
But as he spoke to reporters on Monday, junta leader and Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha brushed aside the video.
“On the website, social media, open it, what a song. Don’t pay attention to that, I don’t pay attention. If you do, it will keep going big. Think about the country, use your judgment listen to that, is it right or not,” Prayuth said.
“Is the country that hard? Am I that dictatorial? ... I’m not doing anything for personal gain. I think I have done for the country more than dictating,” said Prayuth, a retired army chief of staff who led the coup that the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra four years ago.
“Don’t let anyone distort the facts,” the junta chief added.
Meanwhile over the weekend, the main opposition Pheu Thai party of Yingluck, who is living in exile, picked acting chief Viroj Pao-in to lead it in the upcoming general election. His name was the only one listed on its leadership ballot, the Straits Times newspaper of Singapore reported.
The meeting marked the first time that party leaders and members had gathered officially since the junta under Prayuth had banned political gatherings of more than five people.
“We are now getting ready for the elections,” Viroj, 86, a retired police general, said on Sunday, according to Al-Jazeera.
An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of the new Pheu Thai party leader.