Asia Minute: Thailand’s Political Tensions

Oct 31, 2018

Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha
Credit World Travel & Tourism Council / Flickr

The mid-term elections are now less than a week away in the United States, but in Southeast Asia an election scheduled for next year is getting more attention. The location is Thailand — where a number of political developments are taking place, and quickly.

Thailand’s Prime Minister says a ban on political activity will be lifted by December.

Prayut Chan-o-cha wears a business suit now, but he was in a general’s uniform when he led a military coup that took control of the country in 2014. The ruling junta has banned any criticism.

Gatherings of more than five people can be punishable by a year in prison.

The government says the laws are needed to “maintain stability.”

Prayut has repeated a promise to hold elections next year. Although critics say he plans to find a way to remain as prime minister.

The concept of freedom of speech in the country may be tested much sooner. Over the past week or so, a rap protest song has exploded on video screens across Thailand. It’s performed by a group called “Rap Against Dictatorship” and the lyrics talk about topics from government corruption to poor healthcare — and the crackdown on expression.

Parliament House of the Kingdom of Thailand (late 2008)
Credit Sodacan / Wikimedia Commons

One line says “My country points a gun at your throat. It claims to have freedom but gives no right to choose.”

The Guardian newspaper reports the song has gotten more than 21 million views in just seven days.