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Rap raising debate in the lead up to February election

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“As artists, we want to reflect the truth of the society we are living in under dictatorship,” a RAD member identified only as Hockhacker told The Nation Weekend.

“Thailand seems to be caught in a loop of dictatorship. We want to voice what the majority cannot say directly. The lyrics were based on information we collected on social media, reflecting the sickness of our society.”

by Phatarawadee Phataranawik

The hit anti-dictatorship rap song riling the junta-led government, “Prathet Ku Me” (“My Country’s Got…”), has also roused debate and hinted at change in both the political and arts spheres in Thailand, say multidisciplinary scholars.

The 10 member group Rap Against Dictatorship (RAD) used social media as an artistic weapon, its music video-as-political message garnering more than 25 million views on YouTube to date.

The government tried to ban the hit tune, warning that its message and video footage replicating the 1976 massacre at Thammasat University violated the Computer Crime Act’s strictures against information inconsistent with the truth and also threatened national security.

The effort failed. RAD has cheated the censors by using blockchain technology to prevent the government from deleting the video or barring access to it.

But that hasn’t stopped debate from reaching both extremities of pro and con among people from all walks of life, from scholars and politicians to teenagers and monks.

Anthropologist Sorayuth Aiemueyut, who lectures on visual culture at Chiang Mai University, said people incensed by the limits placed on freedom of expression by the government via the use of laws such as Article 44 of the Constitution have found the song liberating.

“The impact of this phenomenon reflects the fact that many Thais are under pressure for calling for democracy under a dictatorial government,” Sorayuth told The Nation Weekend.

“The political-art movement deploying new technology is also animating the current political situation, with thoughts being shared in both the virtual and real worlds, something called ‘digital immateriality’.

Overt political activity is just now resuming after being banned since the 2014 coup, but arts-related socio-political activism has steadily spread, both online and off. Art happenings, posters and music concerts have given voice to campaigners pressing for a return to democracy.

In some cases the authorities have reacted, in one instance arresting demonstrators outside the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. Anti-junta artists began adopting “guerrilla” tactics to get their messages out.

The junta-led government has banned many political artworks, songs, films and stage productions. Individuals and groups targeted included Faiyen, a pro-red shirt band living in exile, and graffiti artist Headache Stencil, whose murals have depicted a black leopard and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan’s luxury wristwatches.

Soldiers stormed Bangkok’s Ver Gallery to shut down an exhibition called “Whitewash”, featuring the politically charged conceptual photography of Harit Srikhao. Online political cartoonist Kai Maew had to set up a fresh link (Kai Maew X on Facebook) after being banned for a while. Also drawing junta was Anocha Suwichakornpong’s internationally acclaimed movie “By the Time It Gets Dark”, which similarly took inspiration from the 1976 Thammasat tragedy.

Meanwhile the recently founded pro-democracy Future Forward Party is tapping artists to help its election campaign. Targeting younger people, the party is hosting the “Future Fest: Art, Music, Culture” this weekend at Bangkok’s Jam Factory, with political art and an open discussion about it.

Another RAD member known as the Liberate P initially planned to attend the fest but changed his mind because he didn’t wish to be seen as supporting Future Forward either.

You can read the full article at The Nation Weekend HERE.

 

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Crime

Man arrested for allegedly exchanging fake US bills for 1.2 million baht

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A man was arrested in Bangkok for allegedly exchanging counterfeit foreign bank notes at a currency exchange kiosk, taking off with 1.2 million baht.

Police say Thanat Amatawimut, a 42 year old building contractor, exchanged 360 fake $100 USD bills for 1.2 million baht at a kiosk in Bangkok back in 2019. The staff accepted the cash, but later realised the bills were fake and attempted to contact Thanat. A complaint was later filed at the Lumpini police station. The Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant last October.

Thanat was arrested in Bangkok’s Chatuchak district yesterday. He denied the charges.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Bangkok Covid clusters prompt inoculation goal of 5 million by end of July

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As 28 new Covid-19 clusters hit Thailand’s capital of Bangkok, The Public Health Ministry says it is planning to vaccinate 5 million people by the end of July. The capital yesterday saw the highest number of daily new infections at 1,843 out of the nationwide high of 9,635. The unusually high amount of infections comes after 12 prisons in Thailand were found to be infected with Covid, accounting for 6,853 of the daily new infections.

Taweesilp Visanuyothin, the spokesman for the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, says the CCSA is monitoring the clusters in Bangkok, which are spread out over 19 districts. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration has separated the clusters into 4 categories which are comprised of local transmission rates and daily new infections.

The district level clusters include:

Din Daeng

Watthana

Klong Toey

Laksi

Lat Phrao

Ratchathewi

Phra Nakhon

Pomprap Sattruphai

Suan Luang

Pathumwan

Sathon

Samphanthawong

Chatuchak

Bang Rak

Prawet

Wang Thonglang

Ramkhamhaeng

Bangkok Noi

Huai Khwang

Laksi, Din Daeng, and Pomprap Sattruphai districts saw the most amount of clusters as a construction worker camp saw 885 infections. Authorities say there were 11 subcontractors working at the site, with workers being spread out across 8 camps nearby. 6 camps featuring 6,000 residents were told to take Covid precautions, as the entire construction site has been sealed off.

Opas Karnkawinpong, the director-general of the Department of Disease Control, says the DDC will set aside enough vaccines for the BMA to make sure that 70% of the capital’s residents were vaccinated by the end of July. Opas says as soon as AstraZeneca vaccines arrive next month, the mass vaccination drive will start. He says the blueprint for the drive has already been approved by Bangkok’s Covid-19 coordination committee that was set in place by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Today, Thailand is reporting 2,473 new infections and 35 Covid-related deaths. The number of active cases continues to rise. Yesterday the state recorded 35,055 people still under care in hospitals or field hospitals. Most of these people remain asymptomatic.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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Thailand

UPDATE: 2 Americans and a Thai arrested over Bangkok kidnap attempt, Thai policeman involved | VIDEO

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Screenshot: THAICRIME

UPDATE:

Following up from the earlier story involving 2 Americans, a Thai, a Taiwanese businessman, and an Israeli security goon, we have the following update (original story below)…

Police have examined CCTV from the restaurant in Thong Lor where the Taiwanese businessman was kidnapped. It’s also been revealed that a “senior Thai policeman” was involved in the alleged abduction case. The abduction took place on March 28.

The meeting had been called to “resolve” some disagreements over a large purchase of rubber gloves that had gone wrong.

After arriving at a meeting at the L’Oliva restaurant in Sukhumvit Soi 26, Mr. Wen Yu Chung was manhandled, put in a headlock and dragged out of the premises. Daily News reports that a “lieutenant colonel” ranked Thai policeman was also captured on the CCTV supervising the events as they happened inside the restaurant. He is reported as being a former traffic policeman.

Mr. Chung was then held to ransom at the condo NT Court. Attempts were made to contact Mr Chung’s family and business associates to extract a ransom – allegedly 1 and 2 million baht – but they refused to pay.

The 3 men have been identified as 41 year old Jeremy Hughes Manchester, 52 year old Louis William Ziskin, both Americans, and Ekbodin Prasitnarit, Thai.

Mr Louis Ziskin has a somewhat chequered history with his story catalogued on Wikipedia. Summarised…

Ziskin was taken into custody in December 7, 2000 and charged over transactions from November 1999 to December 22, 1999. Ziskin was convicted of smuggling 700 pounds of ecstasy into Southern California via FedEx and other various shipping companies, the largest-ever US government seizure of the drug. There was another indictment a year later.

Following his incarceration, Ziskin lost a double jeopardy appeal for the second indictment. The US government settled all claims against Ziskin for a 188 month sentence and a US$9 million fine.

Daily News also reported a man ‘Mike’ who allegedly invited the policeman to be involved in the incident. Earlier this man was described as “Mr. Michael Greenberg, an Israeli operating a detective company”.

Here’s video showing the arrest of Mr. Ziskin…

EARLIER STORY:

Thai police have arrested 2 American citizens and a Thai for the alleged kidnap of a Taiwanese businessman for ransom. 5 other arrest warrants are also waiting to be executed over the incident. Police allege a “business conflict” over the purchase of plastic ‘nitrile’ gloves as the motive.

The 3 men have been identified as 41 year old Jeremy Hughes Manchester, 52 year old Louis William Ziskin, both Americans, and Ekbodin Prasitnarit, Thai. All 3 have denied the charges including illegal assembly, attempted murder, abduction for ransom and extortion. They were formally charged at the Thong Lor police.

According to Bangkok Post, in late 2020 Mr Ziskin appointed the Collection Company to negotiate the purchase of a large quantity of plastic gloves with the Paddy The Room Trading Company.

Police allege that there was an ongoing conflict between the two sides which was responsible for Mr Ziskin accumulating 93 million baht in damages.. So, according to police, Mr Ziskin hired Mr. Michael Greenberg, an Israeli operating a detective company in Thailand to negotiate and retrieve the losses.

Police allege that Mr Greenberg hired Thai and foreign collaborators to plan an abduction as leverage in the retrieval of their losses. They contacted a 60 year old Taiwanese man from the Collection Company in Thailand to procure a supply of rubber gloves from Paddy The Room Trading Company.

They made an appointment to meet Wen Yu Chung at a restaurant in Bangkok’s in Bangkok’s Tong Lor are off Sukhumvit Road on March 28. Police allege that Mr Greenberg and hired associates arrived, handcuffed the Taiwanese businessman and then took him to the NT Place, 200 metres further south down the same Soi, Sukhumvit 36.

They then called Mr Chung’s boss demanding US$2 million, and then called the man’s family demanding another US$1 million. Both contacted police and did nothing to accede to the demands for ransom..

The abductors then headed to a restaurant in Soi 24, with Mr. Chung, eventually letting him go. The Taiwanese man went, first to hospital, then to Thong Lor police station to relate his story. Eventually 8 arrest warrants were issued over the alleged abduction. Soon after police arrested Mr Manchester, Mr Ziskin and Mr Ekbodin.

We’ll continue to follow this story.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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