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'Critical thinkers have to either pretend to be asleep or go to jail or leave the country'
Ugly Truth Thailand - December 2, 2018
Much has been written about this rap, but it is worth roughly summarising the content. The music video is set against a re-created background of the state-sponsored barbaric events at Thammasat University on 6th October 1976. [See http://bit.ly/1TKgv02 or http://bit.ly/2d1iZbj]. It shows that discussion about 6th October is not just about "history" but it is highly relevant to the political situation in Thailand today.
The "My Country has this" rap outlines almost everything that is wrong with Thailand today. This includes the impunity enjoyed by the rich when they break the law or the impunity enjoyed by junta leaders when they are accused of corruption.
It mentions the hypocrisy promoted by the junta and suit-wearing elites who talk endlessly about "good people" and the need to "respect the law" while they engage in corruption and the creation of immoral laws. It describes how Bangkok has often been turned into a killing field, for example in 1973, 1976, 1992 and 2010.
It talks about the present "parliament" which is just a lounge for soldiers and various constitutions which are written and then rubbed out by the military jack-boots, where a gun is held to our throats while claiming that we all have "freedom". It criticised suppression of dissent and state surveillance, but also the fact that many so-called dissenters line up to follow the dictatorship like ants.
When the music video was first released it had a few hundred thousand views. But when the junta's police threatened to prosecute the artists and production team the number of views shot up to over 55 million by the first week of November. Hundreds of people on social media "thanked the police" for promoting the video. After the junta realised that their response to the video had made them a laughing stock in society, the prosecution threats were withdrawn.
The Military dictatorship have affirmed that a general election will be held around February 2019, but it will hardly be democratic. Continuing threats against dissenters continue unabated.
Last week a former whistle-blowing campaigner, who was part of the mob which opposed the 2014 elections and welcomed General Prayut's military coup, stated that he felt that he had been "used" by both the military and mob leader Sutep Taugsuban. He was paid a visit by a group of soldiers.
Around the same time people with calendars bearing the photos of former Prime Ministers Taksin Shinawat and Yingluck Shinawat were taken into military camps for "attitude changing" sessions.
Trials of pro-democracy activists, accused of breaking the law by peaceful protests, are still being held in military courts. Political prisoners remain in prison, including those accused of lese majeste. Some prisoners have not yet been tried in court because the prosecution witnesses "fail to turn up". Yet they are refused bail. This is the kind of atmosphere in which the so-called elections will be held.
The military's constitution and their 20 year National Strategy mean that any elected government will be severely constrained within the military's policy agenda and the powerful military-appointed senate and judiciary are there to police this agenda. New election laws have been designed to discriminate against parties which are supported by the majority of the electorate ie. Taksin's parties.
Some new parties such as the Future Forward Party and the Commoners Party have announced that they will oppose the legacy of the dictatorship. But even if they manage to win enough seats in parliament, which is unlikely, they will not have the power to over-rule the National Strategy, the senate and the judiciary.
Only a powerful pro-democracy social movement outside parliament could do that. Such movements have been built in Thailand in the past, and it would be possible to do so again. The fact that millions of Thais were able to identify with the "My Country has this" rap is a ray of hope for the future. But there is a danger of people being mesmerised by the prospects of the election without properly thinking about the issue of entrenched military power.
Thais are not the only ones mesmerised by the election. Western governments cannot wait to re-establish "business as usual" with Thailand, irrespective of whether the elections are democratic or not.