Deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul has lodged a police complaint against the administrators of four Facebook pages, which he said defamed him in relation to an investigation into the controversial rap song <i>Prathet Ku Mee</i> (What My Country's Got).
In Chiang Rai, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the song was a "slander" against the country and inappropriate.
Pol Gen Srivara said Tuesday that he authorised police officers to lodge the defamation lawsuit on his behalf on Monday. He did not elaborate on how the Facebook pages defamed him.
He explained that the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) is in the process of determining whether the song flouts any laws, adding that he did not order the agency to stop its investigation as reported. "Do not say I am stepping back," Pol Gen Srivara said.
He did, however, concede there is no evidence so far that those connected to the song have broken the law. According to Pol Gen Srivara, there is no need at this point in time to summons anyone for questioning.
He also denied rumours that leading government figures ordered him to take legal action against the rappers.
Meanwhile, Pol Gen Srivara distributed a brief containing 10 counter-arguments to various lyrics of the song to the media. The brief, he said, was written by Seri Wongmonta, a media personality and academic.
Among the points raised is that the lyrics are not entirely true, he said, adding that some of the video's content deliberately tarnishes the reputation of the military.
Also on Tuesday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha renewed his criticism, warning the rappers to be careful.
"I do not care if they attack me. But if they do so against the country, I do not think it is appropriate," said Gen Prayut.
"They should have a conscience. Do not slander your country."
According to the premier, there are laws against acts of showing hostility toward the country. "Anyone that shows appreciation towards the song must accept responsibility for what happens to the country in the future," said Gen Prayut, stressing that he has not ordered anyone to go after the rappers.
Pol Maj Gen Surachate "Big Joke" Hakparn, acting commissioner of the Immigration Bureau, said police have not initiated any legal procedures against the rappers yet as the song is deemed to be only an expression of opinion. "Voicing one's views can still be done as usual," he said.
Asked whether people can still share the song online, Pol Maj Gen Surachate said that may be within a person's rights although people need to be careful about breaking the law with their comments.
The song, written by Rap Against Dictatorship, a rap group, has clocked up more than 23 million views as of Wednesday morning . The 5-minute music video was released on YouTube on Oct 22.
The rappers' verses critique the country's political and social problems -- divisive and violent politics, chronic corruption, inequality and injustice. The lyrics also pertain to allegations about events under the military government.
The video spiked in popularity after the police and government criticised it, according to observers.
Pol Col Siriwat Deepo, chief of the TCSD's sub-division 3, initially said the song might violate the Computer Crimes Act, undermine investor confidence and bring about economic instability.