04/12/2022, 17.16
THAILAND
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Rapper targeted by Prayut’s repression

by Steve Suwannarat

Eleven Finger, an artist from the Khlong Toei slum openly critical of the military, has been arrested for allegedly throwing smoke bombs at a military compound where the Thai prime minister, a former general, lives. Treason legislation is increasingly used to impose heavy punishments and silence dissidents.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – The low-intensity struggle between the government that rules Thailand since the military coup of 22 May 2014 and some of the country’s rappers continues.

The latest case involves Thanayuth Na Ayutthaya, aka Eleven Finger, a young rapper from the slums, who has become a target for his social activism and opposition to the regime.

The struggle has taken on various forms, some random, such as flash mobs. Last Sunday in the heart of Bangkok, the Thai capital, the rapper was arrested, along with others, for throwing two improvised explosives at the First Infantry Regiment compound, where Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha, a former general, lives.

Thai mass media described the “bombs” as nothing worse than firecrackers but that was enough for the authorities to start a new wave of arrests and accusations that could lead to heavy punishments.

Eleven Finger is notoriously critical of the military’s control. He and a dozen other activists already spent time behind bars after they were arrested in August 2020.

This increased his celebrity status, magnified by a Netflix documentary centred on his experience and that of other rappers raised in the Khlong Toei slum.

Like him, many artists, bloggers, influencers and a good number of university students and academics are on a collision course with the authorities. Rather than engage critics, the latter have continued with their old-fashioned but increasingly ineffective crackdown.

In the worst cases, the most dissidents deemed most dangerous have been charged under the lèse-majesté law, the most repressive and arbitrary.

Yesterday, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the leader of the Progressive Movement, the main opposition force, was indicted for a speech he gave on 18 January 2021 in which he criticised the government's plans to purchase COVID-19 vaccines.

Meanwhile, the rapper's case is being monitored by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, an association that itself been the subject of repression with some of its members arrested or placed under surveillance.

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