Generals With Attitude: Thai junta riposte to viral rap takedown flops

Thai group Rap Against Dictatorship has caught the public mood with hit “What’s my country got?” (AFP Photo/Lillian SUWANRUMPHA)

Bangkok (AFP) – The hip-hop group whose savage lyrical attack on Thailand’s repressive junta has been viewed over 26 million times has received an unlikely rap riposte from authorities armed with a tame ditty urging people to “do your best today and tomorrow”.

The beef is with the Rap Against Dictatorship collective whose anthem “What’s my country got?”, denouncing military rule, has caught the public mood like no other Thai political song.

Shot in black and white, the video shows members delivering vituperative verses against censorship, corruption, poor education and the lack of elections since the junta seized power in 2014.

The takedown also touches on historically sensitive subjects showing a dummy made to look as if it has been lynched – a reference to the massacre of dozens of student protesters by security forces on a Bangkok campus in 1976.

Junta leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha, notoriously sensitive to criticism, initially blasted the video but has backed off as it racked up YouTube views and seized endless admiring headlines.

On Thursday the far more positive musical message was broadcast just before Prayut addressed a group of tech entrepreneurs.

The song, called “Thailand 4.0 Rap”, shows montages of Thais experimenting with robotics and virtual reality, with lyrics encouraging viewers to “make it happen, make it happen”.

“Think further, Thailand can go far,” one verse says.

“We have to go anyway, I can do it…do your best today and tomorrow,” says another.

Critics have accused the junta of stifling free speech and failing to reform the education sector while the government has touted Thailand as a tech hub ready for investment.

While not framed as a direct response to the earlier — and more popular — song, “Thailand 4.0” came as the front pages of newspapers in the country still featured stories about the viral hit.

The sanitised words also stood in stark contrast to the blistering grievances of the RAD, who refer to Thailand as a place that has “everything except common sense” and where you have to “stay quiet or stay in jail”.

The junta’s video has received only a few thousand views so far with verses such as “if you’re growing rice, planting vegetables and doing farming, just inject the ideas and price will increase” failing to ignite public imagination.

Prayut, who has recorded his own ballads to Thai greatness in the past, told the audience that the song needs only “minor changes, just small rhymes.”

“Apart from that, the lyrics already sound good,” he said.

Referring to the RAD’s lyrical assault he said he would not use his sweeping powers to ban it.

Thailand is set to return to the polls in 2019 after years of delays and the often gruff Prayut is working hard to show a softer face to the public.

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