Controversy over a music video, "Prathet Ku Mee" (What My Country's Got), which has been perceived as an attack on the military government, is heating up after police threatened to take legal action against the artists and the production team.
Police claimed the content of the song damages the country's image and likely violates the Computer Crimes Act.
Uploaded on YouTube on Oct 22, the 5-minute music video (with English subtitle) has become a sensation across the country. As of 6.46pm on Saturday, the number of views had soared to more than 8.1 million, with 50,000 comments and 407,000 likes against 7,200 dislikes. The music video became the talk of the town, especially after the police and government came out to criticise it.
The song, of which English title given by the artists is Which is My Country, also shot up to No.1 on the iTunes Thailand Charts and the hashtag #ประเทศกูมี (the name of the song) topped Thailand's Twitter trending list. (continued below)
Made by an anti-military group called Rap Against Dictatorship, the song encapsulates the country's political and social problems -- divisive and bloody-violent politics, chronic corruption, inequality and injustice.
The lyrics pertain to allegations about events such as corruption cases under the military government.
"My country's got a black panther shot by a rifle. My country preaches morals but has a crime rate higher than the Eiffel [Tower]."
"It is a country in which judges live in a resort built inside a national park and it is a country in which the city centre becomes a killing field!"
"My country points a gun at your throat. It claims to have freedom but gives no right to choose."
At the end of the music video, the following message is given: "Divide-and-rule is a dictator's best trick. All People Unite."
"With condolences to all lives which have perished on both sides due to the bloody crackdown."
However, later on in the video, there is a scene that seems to recreate the 1976 October massacre in front of Thammasat University.
The production team recreated the scene where chairs are used to repetitively strike dead bodies, presumably protesters, hanging from a tree.
Government spokesperson Buddhipongse Punnakanta said the government was sad and disappointed that the young rappers had made this song.
"The lyrics appear to be an attack on the government. The creators must feel vindicated, but the most damaged party is the country," he said.
Deputy police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul said yesterday that the group may have violated the law.
He says there's a 50% chance the song Which is My Country may have violated a junta order.
Pol Gen Sivara said the police would summon the rappers and investigate the case.
He also warned that musicians shouldn't do anything risky and against the law because if it was found there was any wrongdoing, it would not lead to good results for them or their families.
Pol Col Siriwat Deepo, an investigator at the Technology Crime Suppression Division said police are checking whether the content, especially the scene similar to the 1976 October massacre, was a violation of the Computer Crime Act.
"Initially, the song's content seems slanderous against the country and is damaging to the country. As such, it likely violates the computer law," he said.
Those who share the clip on social media might face a 5-year jail term and/or a fine up to 100,000 baht, he said.
A spokesperson for Rap Against Dictatorship told the media that the music video was made to raise political awareness.
"The objective of making this song was to use music as a medium to make teenagers and working people more interested in politics. Music is easily accessible for all. We used the Oct 6, 1976 massacre as the background for the music video to reflect a situation in which state agencies create disharmony among people. We need people to pay attention to freedom of speech. Rappers can sing songs about politics and they should feel free to express what's on their minds," the spokesperson said.
Teerawat Rujenatham, director of the music video told the Bangkok Post in a phone interview that he was not surprised by the government's reaction. "Yet, I wish the police would spend time doing something more productive such as serving people or solving corruption cases".
What surprised him most was the overwhelming reaction from the public Friday when the numbers of viewers jumped by over 1 million in a single day.
"I need to thank the police and government's overreaction which helped people see our work," said Mr Teerawat who said he has produced clips for the anti-dictator group.
Asst Prof Warat Karuchit, deputy dean at School of Communication Arts and Management Innovation at National Institute of Development Administration said that he found the clip contained some sensitive elements, especially the scene depicting events that might remind people of the 1976 massacre.
"The clip's recreation of events in October 1976 might inadvertently be inflammatory. Such images create a strong emotional effect. The maker of this video picked an event from the past to relate it with the present despite both events being different," he told the Bangkok Post.
Rap Against Dictatorship posted on its Facebook on Saturday afternoon to confirm none of them had been arrested and to thank the public for their support.
“What happened on Friday worries us deeply but we have the courage to fight on from the support of the people, who contacted us through social media and other channels," the group wrote.
“While several of you might disagree with the lyrics of our song and have completely different political beliefs, you try to protect our freedom of expression. We read every post and message and sincerely thank you.
“We believe the incident is clear proof that it doesn’t matter how different we are. We -- the people -- can fight together against injustice."