อุดมสุข (Bountiful Happiness)

Lyrics and Melody by Rishadan Port

Port Faiyen, who had had to flee to Laos as a political refugee sometime after the 2014 coup, secretly returned to Thailand in December 2018 for urgent medical treatment. The Park/Garden in the song is Suan Luang Rama IX, or King Rama 9 Park. Rama 9 is the late King Bhumipol, who died in 2016. So Port returned to Thailand a few years after the death of King Bhumipol, and noticed some changing attitudes. The title of the song, อุดมสุข “Udomsuk” means Bountiful Happiness. Port’s family home is on Udomsuk Road. Actually, more than 10 years ago Udomsuk and Chaloemprakiat Rama 9 Road were the same road, but it has since been separated into two roads, so that Port still lives on Chaloemprakiat Rama 9 Road but he can still call it Udomsuk (Bountiful Happiness). The last verse uses a pronoun that can mean “I/me” or “us/we”. It is supposed to mean both. Port is saying “I” came back to “my” home, but also “we” came back to “our” homes.

Port Faiyen (Parinya Cheewinkulpathom ) is a victim of Thailand’s crazy lese majesty law, which has been roundly condemned by the UN and human rights organizations. He has been sentenced to 6 years in prison over three short Facebook posts, one of which comments on a failed coup in Turkey! He is out on bail awaiting an appeal.

Long ago. . . like not that long
(Along the road, it’s still the same as yesterday)
My home[town] where I grew up,
From how it had been for so long . . . I don’t know how

I still remember . . . the former restaurants . . . I used to go
To sit and eat . . . I really miss them
The scenes of earlier times come back
The familiar sights . . . return [to me]

Flowers bloom within
Beautiful [flowers] … in the garden . . . of someone
However great
They die and disappear . . . decline and dissipate

Maybe … all that’s left … is just us
Like the time … the time when … we were young
The place we used to live
we came back as before… back to our home
We came back as before. . . back to our home
Coming back as before. . . coming back to our home, back as before… back to our homes.

ก้าวให้ไกลกว่าเดิม (Walk on Even Further than Before)

by เสก โลโซ Sek Loso

Sek Loso posted this song to his Facebook page August 2, 2023, saying it’s the first song he’s composed in 5 years and think of it as just love song. It sounds EXACTLY like a love song, but in the context, it is definitely a political song about feeling betrayed by Pua Thai Party (and Thaksin Shinawatra), and expressing strong support for Move Forward Party, which has a slightly different name in Thai–ก้าวไกล (Gao Glai) which translates something like “Walk on Far.” He also says he wrote the song after “seeing the news,” which we understand to be Pheu Thai walking away from the coalition of prodemocracy parties lead by Move Forward, the party that won in the general election, and breaking a promise to support Move Forward’s prime minister candidate Pita Limjaroenrat in the Parliamentary election. In fact, Sek may be singing AS Pita. Many former Red Shirts have switched their primary alliance from Thaksin and Pheu Thai (what used to be the largest prodemocracy party) to Move Forward, a newer party that is willing to go even further than Pheu Thai in calling for reform of the lese majesty law and the monarchy.

ฉันจะก้าวเดิน มุ่งหน้าต่อไป แม่ไม้มีใคร แม่ไม่มีเธอ
I will keep moving on ahead. Even if I don’t have anyone. Even if I don’t have you.
ฉันอาจเป็นคน ที่ดูเพ้อเจ้อ วันนี้ไม่มีเธอ ก็ไม่เป็นไร
I may be a person who looks like a dreamer. Today I don’t have you. But never mind

*ความคิดยังสู้วาย หัวใจยังสู้ต่อ ท้อมันไม่ท้อ ก็แค่เสียใจ
My mind is strong. My heart still fights on. I’m not discouraged, I’m just disappointed.
เธออย่างโหดร้าย ฉันรับมันไม่ได้ วันนี้จะจากไป ทั้งน้ำตา
You are like a ruthless person. I just can’t accept it. Today I go back, all in tears
**เจ็บจนเจียนตาย ไม่อยากร้องไห้ใครเห็น สิ่งที่เราเป็น ผ่านมาคืออะไร

I’m hurt so it almost kills me. I don’t want to be seen crying. What just happened to us?
ไม่อยากร้องขอ จะไม่ง้อเธออีกต่อไป (แม่จะ)เจ็บ(จน)เจียนตาย จะยังก้าวไป ก้าวให้ไกลกว่าเดิม
I don’t want to beg. I won’t reconcile with you ever again. Even if I’m hurt so it almost kills me, I will move on, farther than before.

วันนี้ไม่มีเธอ พรุ่งนี้ไม่มีเรา เจ็บก็ทนเอา เมื่อเค้าไม่แคร์
Today I don’t have you. Tomorrow there is no us. If I hurt, I endure the pain, when he doesn’t care.
อย่าให้ใครเห็นว่าเราอ่อนแอ วันนี้ไม่แพ้พรุ่งนี้ยังมี
Don’t anyone think I’m weak. Today I don’t lose/give up. There is still tomorrow.

(*, **, **)

Walk on even further than before

Someday (อาจ.. – English Version)

Written by Rishadan Port & Ann Norman*
Melody & Music Composed by Rishadan Port

The meaning of the song is that Port (also known as Port Faiyen) remembers his disappeared and presumably assassinated friend when he plays the old songs written during the period that he knew them. Eight disappeared over the period 2016 to 2019, including two former roommates of Port (Itipon Sukpaen and Siam Teerawut) but only two bodies were ever found. Like other members of Faiyen band, he still hopes and imagines that his former friends may yet walk back into his life. But memories and hope both tend to fade over time.

Sometimes when I hear the song
Sometimes when I sing the song
That song brings back pictures of you and me
Just how much longer might it be?

Maybe there’s a day our dream comes true
Maybe there’s a day birds can soar to
The sky of freedom from the cage that’s small
In how many days or years, if at all?

Time keeps going by until today hope’s still slim
It shines for a moment then fades to dim
I still hope that someday
We can meet again side by side
If we keep breathing and haven’t died

Maybe there’s a day our dream comes true
Maybe there’s a day birds can soar to
And on that day, we can meet again
If we keep breathing and haven’t died
If we keep breathing and haven’t died

*I belatedly realized I had this writing credit with Rishadan Port, aka Port Faiyen. (Both names are stage names or pen names. The first is used for most of Port’s solo work. The second name is used for songs with Faiyen band.) As I recall it, Port wrote a beautiful song in Thai (อาจ.. ) which means “Maybe,” with English title “Someday.” Soon he had an English version to show me and I fixed it up slightly. Much later I discovered the credit while browsing YouTubes.

แสงดาวแห่งศรัทธา Starlight of Faith [Rhyming English version]

Translation by Ann Norman of song by Jit Phumisak (often spelled Chit Phumisak)

Note: “Seang Dao Heng Sata” (แสงดาวแห่งศรัทธา) which translates “Starlight of Faith” or “Starlight of Confidence” is the most heavily used song in the Thai prodemocracy movement, according to my observations. It has been in continuous use since the 1970s, and roughly compares to the American “We Shall Overcome” in its message and historical significance. I only recently translated it into singable English during the drama in Thai Parliament voting on Pita Limjaroenrat’s nomination for Prime Minister. I make my translation freely available to the movement, but hopefully I would be credited.

I jeer at the thorns that stab and prick the poor
Masses sure stand defiantly
When gloomy skies blot the moon so we don’t see
Stars sparkling mock it all from afar

Sparkling light of a sterling little star
Shining far from light years apart
Like a lamp sending rainbows to the heart
A victory flag starts leading the way

A storm from on high rumbles threatening doom
The land is all gloom, the moon hides away
Stars of faith still shine on above
Stirring hearts of people always

I jeer at the thorns that stab and prick the poor
Masses sure stand defiantly
When gloomy skies blot the moon so we don’t see
Stars of faith are still shining on
Stars sparkle on until the blue dawn

*The order of the verses above follows the version by Faiyen band. I believe the original version begins with the second verse shown here.

A Return to Democracy in Thailand?

by Ann Norman

[Edit: This article was written prior to the vote for Prime Minister in the Thai Parliament. Pita Limjaroenrat, was the only candidate running for the position. The vote did not pass. He got 321 votes which is about 10 more than in his coalition. He would need about 50 more. The day before the vote, the Election Commission announced he was disqualified to serve as a Member of Parliament over some ridiculous technicality from the junta written constitution that in practice, only applies to prodemocracy leaders. Many suspect King Vajiralongkorn of interfering directly by making his wishes know to the Election Commission and junta-appointed Senators. The only thing I edited in this article after the vote was the title.]

We won! and by “we,” I mean the Thai pro-democracy movement, whose songs I have been featuring at this website!

In Thailand’s last election, prodemocracy parties won in a landslide. Though one activist friend quipped that the land didn’t slide; rather, the sky tumbled down to Earth! (which is even more momentous). Not only did prodemocracy parties immediately grab 312 out of 500 seats in the last election, the particular party that won the most seats (152) is Move Forward, whose top campaign promises prominently include reform of the monarchy, and amending the lese majesty law! Meanwhile, the governing coalition, aka, The Dictatorship, only won 15% of seats. He he . . .  For fans of this site, it doesn’t get much better than that!

Coalition of prodemocracy parties prepares to take power; Move Forward leader Pita Limjaroenrat, in center, expected to be new Prime Minister

Goodbye to nine years of dictatorship

In May 2014 General Prayut Chan-o-cha overthrew the caretaker government that had recently replaced the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra. An unstated but commonly understood goal of that coup, was to “manage” the royal succession from the sick and elderly King Bhumipol to his, it turns out, completely unmanageable, sociopathic son Vajrialongkorn. (To list the ways Vajiralongkorn has disgraced himself and Thailand since the coup would take the rest of this article.) Thailand would live under Dictator Prayut Chan-o-cha even through 2019 when elections and nominal democracy returned. In that election, prodemocracy parties won the majority of seats in the House of Representatives (and so should have been able to name the Prime Minister), but due to a rigged system put in place by junta as well as outright cheating on the part of the military government, Prayut Chan-o-cha managed to stay in power, as an “elected” Prime Minister for another 4 years, until the sky-tumbling election of 2023.

Mass protests in 2020

For multiple reasons, some listed below, Thailand’s youth rose up in 2020, in mass gatherings across the country, speaking out against not only the military dictatorship but a decadent and brutal monarchy.

  1. Thailand’s youth grew up with social media and are as progressive as youth anywhere else in the world. Many young leaders of the prodemocracy movement in 2020 got their start standing up for their own human rights at school and demanding rights to freedom from physical abuse and authoritarian rules at their schools.
  2. The LGBTQ movement, in particular, is very strong in Thailand. Many leaders of 2020 prodemocracy movement are LGBTQ themselves or are allies in the LGBTQ movement.
  3. Hundreds of Thai dissidents in exile, including members of Faiyen band, broadcast their online shows openly criticizing the military dictatorship and the monarchy. For much of the period, the shows of Faiyen band, for instance,  had 2 million viewers. There are only about 70 million people in Thailand. Within Thailand, hundreds of prominent dissidents, including activists, journalists, lawyers, and academics risked their reputations, their livelihoods and freedom, and their very lives opposing the military dictatorship.
  4. Rap music played an important roll, with Rap Against Dictatorship’s groundbreaking “Pratet Gu Me,” ประเทศกูมี (That’s What MY Country Has) being a turning point for the movement.
  5. Thanatorn Juangroongruangkit, charismatic leader of the progressive, pro-democracy Future Forward party, did surprisingly well in the 2019 elections, and so, for contrived reasons, was immediately disqualified from holding office and banned from politics for ten years, and the whole Future Forward party was dissolved by the Constitutional Court on February 21, 2020. This huge blow to pro-democracy voters fueled the protests.
  6. The assassination of Thai political refugee Wanchalearm Satsaksit, abducted in Cambodia, on Jun 4, 2020. was a last straw for many people after a series of 8 similar assassinations outside of Thailand, credible death threats to Faiyen band, and state-sponsored beatdowns of three prodemocracy activists within Thailand. According to reporting by Andrew MacGregor Marshall, the assassination of Wanchalearm was definitely ordered by King Vajiralongkorn. The public began to blame, and obliquely accuse Vajiralongkorn, for the whole set of similar assassinations as well as the death threats to Faiyen band. For instance, check out the Commoner song, “You Know Who” คนที่คุณก็รู้ว่าใคร.

Subsequent events

To make a very long story short, the 2020 mass protests came to an end partly because of covid. Scores of leaders in the movement were arrested and jailed, and almost every one of them caught covid as it swept through the prison system. The focus of the protests changed to simply demanding that jailed protest leaders be freed. And some of these political prisoners went on long hunger strikes attracting media attention.

Although Thailand had exemplary performance at the beginning of the covid epidemic, maybe due to almost universal compliance with mask wearing and/or the tropical climate, the government failed in terms of vaccine procurement. A contract to make AstraZeneca vaccine for the Asian region went to a little-known, inexperienced company owned by King Vajiralongkorn, which failed to deliver sufficient supplies on time! Offers of vaccines from the COVAX scheme and from India were turned down (echoes of King Bhumibol’s “Sufficiency Economy” philosophy). Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the banned Future Forward leader, criticized Thai vaccine policy in a video that has been banned in Thailand.  More generally the Thai economy was hard hit during covid without the income from international tourism and people suffered without adequate help from government.

Over time, the famous leaders of the 2020 protests were released from jail, but multiple frivolous legal cases, including lese majesty cases, still hang over their heads. This is certainly the case for protest musician Port Faiyen. He was sentenced to 6 years in jail for three ordinary Facebook posts, but is currently out on bail awaiting an appeal.

By 2023 protests had died down to dramatic actions by a few brave individuals: for instance, two  young women “Tawan” and “Bam,” famous for standing on street corners taking very visible opinion polls on so-called “sensitive subjects”; spattering themselves with fake blood outside the criminal court; and hunger striking.  

It seemed quiet, not because the activists were discouraged but because the prodemocracy side was confident of an imminent landslide victory in the upcoming general election. Which is exactly what happened.

Post-Election Reality of 2023: The Dawning of a New Day?

Whatever happens next, attitudes have changed dramatically and permanently with regard to royal and military dictatorship. It used to be that lese majesty law and a pervasive atmosphere of fear put a check not only self-expression but even private thoughts. All this has changed dramatically, in large part because people finally began openly acknowledging the assassinations of Thai political refugees abroad. This led directly to calls for reform of the monarchy and repeal of the lese majesty law.

Not only did the prodemocracy side win hearts and minds as they exercised their human right to free speech under constant threat of violence, but due to the recent election results, individuals now know how very many like-minded political soulmates they actually have––fellow citizens who want to reform the monarchy and get rid of the lese majesty law! Everyone now knows all about the so-called “sensitive subjects”. And because of the Move Forward win, everyone knows that that people are sick of the monarchy and the lese majesty law. And, furthermore, everyone knows that everyone knows that EVERYONE KNOWS! There is less pressure on prodemocracy activists to express support for policies they don’t really like. Under these conditions, even junta-appointed Senators may jump on the prodemocracy bandwagon just to save their jobs.

We hear from news sources that Move Forward will face intense pressure from the many rich and powerful groups who want to preserve the lese majesty law and are loyal to the monarchy. I doubt it. Under King Bhumibol, many royalists viewed the lese majesty law not as a good thing but as a necessary evil: the king had personal secrets that needed to be kept from “ordinary people” so the whole country could unite under a respected symbol. But that ship has sailed. The idea of Vajiralongkorn in his crop top cavorting with his harem in Germany during the covid lockdown, killing a few random political refugees to mark important holidays, breaks the magic spell of sacredness that used to hang over his father Bhumipol and the whole Chakri Dynasty. “Protect the monarchy”! no longer works as a unifying rallying cry, or an excuse for “the establishment” to stage a coup.  

And it doesn’t look like “the Establishment” even wants a coup. In the last election, 32 of 33  subdistricts of Bangkok, home of “the Establishment,” went to Move Forward!

The election outcome is a huge victory for the pro-democracy movement in Thailand. The change is real, it goes deep, and I don’t think the former dictatorship will be able to block it.

99 Satang 99 สตางค์

Lyrics and Melody by Rishadan Port

ในยุคสมัยนึง ที่คนยังเชื่อว่าโลกแบน
In an era in which people still believed the Earth was flat,
ใครบอกว่าโลกกลม คงโดนหาว่าเป็นบ้า
whoever said the world was round, would probably be accused of being crazy
คนที่คิดต่างต่อสังคม ท้าทายระบบที่โสมม
People who thought differently from society defied a dirty system,
ความเคยชินที่หมักหมม และความเชื่อที่ไร้ค่า
accumulated habits, and meritless beliefs.

Maybe he’s not be like anyone else
And someone might view [him] as [a few satang] short of a full baht
ก็คงเหมือนกันกับฉัน แต่มันแสนจะภูมิใจ
And it’s probably the same with me. But of that I am very proud.
Scornful words
are a force that
tell me I walk on the right path.

แม้ใครมองว่าฉันเพี้ยน สติไม่ดี
Though someone views me as unbalanced, not quite right in the head,
still I am convinced that this path
will take us toward a better world
ทะยาน ก้าวไป ไม่ท้อ ไม่หวั่นไหว
Soaring upwards, walking on, not downhearted, not shaken
ต่อคำเหยียดหยาม หรืออำนาจใหญ่คุกคาม
To the hateful words or great powers abusing me,
ยังไง ก็ไม่มีวันหยุดฉันจนวันสุดท้าย
However [it plays out], [you] have no chance of stopping me until my final day.

จะทำลายก็เข้ามา ให้มันรู้กันไปว่า
If [they] think to destroy me, come on! And let them all know:
ความยิ่งใหญ่ที่เปราะบาง จะยื้อได้นานสักเท่าไร
How long can [your] fragile greatness extend!
คลื่นลูกใหม่ที่เข้ามา กาลเวลาที่หมุนไป
A new wave will come in, time keeps turning
ประวัติศาสตร์จะขีดไว้ ว่าใครคือของจริง
History will record who was the real thing.

เธออาจยังไม่เข้าใจ ดูต่อไปไม่นานจะเปลี่ยน
Maybe you don’t yet understand. Keep watching: not much longer, it will change––
ความคิดของเธอกับฉัน ที่มันเหมือนจะสวนทาง
the ideas of you and me, which [now] seem opposite.
Scornful words
are a force
that tell me I walk on the right path

แม้ใครมองว่าฉันเพี้ยน สติไม่ดี
Though someone views me as unbalanced, not quite right in the head
I am convinced that this path
will take us towards a better world
ทะยาน ก้าวไป ไม่ท้อ ไม่หวั่นไหว
Soring upwards, walking on, not discouraged, not shaken
ต่อคำเหยียดหยาม หรืออำนาจใหญ่คุกคาม
To scornful words or great powers menacing me,
ยังไง ก็ไม่มีวันหยุดฉันจนวันสุดท้าย
However [it plays out], [you] no chance of stopping me until my last day.

Love isn’t a Hostile Takeover ความรักไม่ใช่การครอบครอง

By Rishadan Port

Love isn’t a takeover in order to be the owner of someone
Love doesn’t need to force [participants] to reluctantly endure
Why would love need to tie [participants] together in bondage?
Because we people have hearts, we’re not things.

เมื่อคนทุกคนต่างมีหนทาง มีสิทธิ์เสรีในความเป็นคน
When every person has their own path, has a human right to freedom
Don’t let [anyone] define societal regulations for love
มาข่มขืนใจ ให้ก้มหน้ารับกับสังคมที่เป็น
that rape, so one bows their head and accepts the society that exists

If love is domination in order to own someone
If love is forcing each other to reluctantly endure
If love must tie people together in bondage continually
Then, I guess, love is like dictatorship.

Illusion ใน . . ลวง

Composed by Rishadan Port

Note:   The words in the title of this song “ใน . . . ลวง.” In the context of these lyrics “ในลวง” seems to be short for “ในความหลอกลวง” which means “in deception.”  For the title, Port translates “ในลวง” as “Illusion.” A similar sounding word “ในหลวง” (not used in this song) is one of many ways to refer respectfully to the king.  For English speakers both “ในลวง” and “ในหลวง” probably sound the same (“nai luang”) but they differ by a tone.  I will highlight the sentence where this comes into play.

ในความเป็นจริง บางสิ่งที่ดูว่าจริง
In truth, some things that look true,
ในความเป็นจริง อาจเป็นเพียงภาพลวงตา
In truth, are maybe only pictures deceiving the eyes

ในความหลอกลวง บางสิ่งที่ดูว่าลวง
In illusion, some things that look deceptive
ในความหลอกลวง สิ่งนั้นอาจจริงยิ่งกว่า
In illusion, those things may be the more true

So what will you believe in?
[Will you] chose just as you please [to believe] in things you need or want?
The path you walk may look so nice
ถ้ามองให้ดี อาจไม่เป็นดั่งฝัน
But if you look closely, might not be as you dream.
A path dark and gloomy or bright
The end of the path is nothingness

ในความเป็นจริง ทุกสิ่งไม่เที่ยงแท้
In truth, everything is fuzzy [unsure/inexact]
ในความผันแปร เปลี่ยนผันตามกาลเวลา
In unstableness, there is change in accordance with time

ในลวงอาจจริง ในจริงอาจลวง
In illusion, maybe it’s true. In truth, maybe it’s illusion
ในลวงอาจลวง ในลวงอาจลวงยิ่งกว่า
Illusion maybe deceives.  Illusion may be more deceiving

So what will YOU believe in?
Will you choose just as you please to believe in the things you want or need?
The path [you] walk maybe looks so nice
ถ้ามองให้ดี อาจไม่เป็นดั่งฝัน
If you look closely, it may not be as you dream
A path dark and gloomy or bright
The end of the path is nothingness

สหายวิรัตน์ Comrade Wirat

By Nithiwat Wannasiri (Jom Faiyen)
First posted on Facebook, October 24, 2019

Jom’s note on Facebook: รำลึกถึงการจากไปของผู้ลี้ภัยการเมืองไทย สหายวิรัตน์(อ.สุรชัย แซ่ด่าน) สหายภูชนะ และสหายกาสะลอง
Reflecting on the departure of Thai political refugee Comrade Wirate (Ahjan Surachai Saedan) Comrade Puchana, and Comrade Gasalong.

Note from Music of Thai Freedom: This song was posted 10 months after 3 Thai dissident refugees Surachai Danwattananursorn, aka Surachai Saedan, Chatchan Boophawal, aka Puchana, and Kridet Luelert, aka Gasalong had disappeared from Laos, and at least two of their mutilated bodies had been found floating in the Mekong River shrouded with fishnets. Puchana’s body was found December 27 and Gasalong’s on December 29 of 2018. Earlier on December 26, a similarly wrapped body was found and “accidentally” re-released into the river. We may never know if this was the body of Surachai, or, more likely, was one of the bodies that would be found further down the river. Not directly mentioned in this song another set of 3 Thai dissident refugees who had recently been living in Laos disappeared from Vietnam on May 8, 2019. One of this group, Siam Teerawut, was actually an informal member of Faiyen band. Another refugee close to Jom, Itipol Sukpaen or DJ Zunho, had already disappeared from Laos on June 22, 2016, and another fellow refugee Wuthipong Kachathamakul (Ko Tee or Ma Noi) disappeared on July 29, 2017. All were murdered on the orders of Vajiralongkorn (Thailand’s current King) according to informed sources, as reported by Andrew MacGregor Marshall. 

ฝากสายน้ำของ และสองฝั่งไท
Entrusted to the Maekong and the two free banks
บอกกล่าวเล่าไว้ เคยมีเรื่องราว
Declaring, “There was a story [here].”
หาดทรายถม ระทมขื่นคาว ดั่งดวงดาวร่วงราวลับไป (ดั่งดวงดาวร่วงราวลับไป)
The beach sand reclaims. [It’s] depressing, bitter, stinking [like fish]. As if the stars detached, fell down, and disappeared from view (As if the stars detached, fell down, and disappeared from view)
ฝากเพลงนี้ถึงสุรชัย และเหล่าสหายผู้คอยติดตาม
I bestow this song to Surachai, and those comrades who used to follow him.
นานมาแล้วดินแดนแห่งนี้ ยังเคยมีเสรีมากหลาย
Long ago this land still had a lot of freedom
ปฏิวัติเจ้าเผด็จการร้าย เธอถูกอุ้มหายความตายเจิ่งนอง (ถูกอุ้มหายความตายเจิ่งนอง)
Overthrow the evil tyrant! They [our friends] were kidnapped and disappeared: death flooded in. (They were kidnapped and disappeared; death flooded in).

*อุดมการณ์เพื่อประชาชน มิยอมจำนน ดั่งสุรชัย
[My] Ideology for the people [I’m] unwilling to surrender, just like Surachai.
ให้ยอมรับคงฝืนไม่ไหว ให้เปลี่ยนใจคงทำไม่เป็น
You want [me] to accept it? Maybe [I] can’t successfully resist. You want [me] to change my mind? That’s probably impossible.
ประชาชนข้นแค้นลำเค็ญ จะขอยืนเป็นสักขีพยาน
[For] the people destitute and impoverished, I ask to be an eye-witness

อุดมการณ์เพื่อประชาชน มิยอมจำนน ดั่งสุรชัย
[My] Ideology for the people [I’m] unwilling to surrender. Just like Surachai.
ให้ยอมรับคงฝืนไม่ไหว ให้เปลี่ยนใจทำอย่างใดกัน
You want [us] to accept it. [We] probably can’t successfully resist. You’d have [us] change our minds? You all do whatever
ประชาชนคือคนสำคัญ เธอขอยืนยันแม้ชีพมลาย
The citizens are important people. He wanted to stand firm, even if his life would be destroyed.

**สิ่งสุดท้ายสหายทั้งผอง แม้เลือดไหลนองขอเธอหยัดยืน
A final thing [to] the whole group of comrades, even if a flood of blood will flow, may you [friend] fight to the end
…เจ้าปล้นไปเราเพียงทวงคืน มิยอมเป็นอื่น ตราบยังหายใจ
… You [the ruler] stole it away, we just demand it back, unwilling to be otherwise, as long as we still have breath.
ฮืม….ฮืม…. ฮืมม….
Hmm . .. Hmm . . .Hmmmm
…เจ้าปล้นไปเราจึงทวงคืน มิยอมเป็นอื่นดั่งสุรชัย
… You stole it away, we therefore demand it back, unwilling to be otherwise, just like Surachai.

Music of Thai Freedom stands by Yan Marchal, now deported from Thailand

Yan Marchal is yet another artist, with music archived at this site, who is currently being persecuted by the Thai government. Yan used his “white privilege” (in this case, the fact that the Thai authorities hesitate to move against a Westerner in the same brutal way they might move against a Thai) to good effect. It all began with “Junta Anthem Update,” (June 2019) a short spoof of Dictator Prayut’s “Returning Happiness to the People” music video (which had already been spoofed many times, including by Port Faiyen). Yan’s spoof went viral, due in part to the novelty of a non-Thai creating funny content in Thai. In answering the question of how a non-Thai came to care so much about the issue, Yan points out he is a long-time resident of Thailand with two half-Thai children living in Thailand, so he totally does have a stake in the future of Thai democracy. At the same time, he warns others who might be considering a bold move not to do it without weighing the risks. He was always aware he could be kicked out at any time, not for doing anything wrong, but for annoying the dictatorship.

“Junta Anthem Update,” was followed by my favorite Yan Marchal moment, the hilarious “คันตูด” “Itchy Butt” (July 2019) music video, which again makes fun of Dictator Prayut. This song imagines that because irritable General Prayut is always sulking and blowing up at someone for one “butt hurt” or another, he would be looking for a cure for his “itchy butt.” Yan, imitating Prayut in a bad mood, dances around as if his butt itches, and considers various remedies from Vaseline to various scary vegetables that could be (presumably) be inserted into the irritated orifice. In the end, Yan pulls down his pants and moons the camera (with a censored sticker appearing just in time to keep it all rated PG).

Clowning around for a good cause was probably what made Yan Marchal famous. He was OK with looking ridiculous for a minute for the sake of a viral video that would help open up the space for free speech in Thailand. Having achieved fame from those first silly short videos, by September he was collaborating with famous Thai prodemocracy activist Bow Nutta Mahattana for a series of online chats titled “What’s up Thailand,” addressing a range of important topics in English. For instance in Episode 5, they discussed cyber-bullying, as they had both become targets of bullying for expressing their political views. Yan speaks Thai and made it a point to be at important events—shows of support for prodemocracy activists thrown in jail or newly accused of crimes, cutting-edge concerts and art shows, and protests of all sizes—to record the events for any curious Facebook followers unable to attend. In this capacity, he informally interviewed many famous activists, usually in Thai. He let us all be a fly on the wall at many interesting moments.

Yan Marchal The Phenomenon didn’t just appear out of nowhere. He has long been one of the biggest non-Thai fans of Thai protest music. Anyone who heard Rap Against Dictatorship’s (RAD) first big hit “ประเทศกูมี” “Pratet Gu Mee” (“What My Country’s Got” OR “My Fucking Country”) went nuts over it. For the record, I said, “This music video is quite simply the greatest thing in Thai protest music since I have been following Thai protest music.” That song was astounding from day one. It went viral nationally and internationally and eventually won the Vaclav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent at the Oslo Freedom Forum in June 2019. HERE they are accepting the prize. Yan attended and recorded the earliest RAD concerts, and memorized the lyrics to “Pratet Gu Mee” (if I remember correctly). He translated other Thai rap songs, including “Feel the Noise” (March 2019) by X-Seven who is a Rap Against Dictatorship artist. That stirring song samples from “Can You Feel the People Sing” [in Thai]. Several times Yan and I, independently, rushed to translate the same newest, greatest Thai protest song into rhyming English. I came out with an English version of the stunning “คนที่คุณก็รู้ว่าใคร” or “You Know Who” by Commoner สามัญชน before he finished his. This chilling song and music video, featuring Pai Dao Din, shows a body bag being dropped into a river and attributes the 9 assassinations of Thai refugee dissidents over 2016-2020 to “You Know Who” or “He Who Shall Not Be Named.” (Yan has a t-shirt advertising this song.) Not long after “You Know Who,” an equally amazing song came out, this one happy and comedic. Yan finished a rhyming version of “กล้ามาก เก่งมาก ขอบใจ” (So Daring! So Talented! Thank You) by Peng Surachet, before I could get mine started. The title comes from an embarrassing interaction between King Vajiralongkorn and a gushing fan who got to meet him for a moment. Yan’s adaptation of the song (January 30, 2021) is called “Ain’t It Brave of You” and changes the tune from upbeat pop to a particular afro-latin style in a minor key. In addition to Thai music, Yan is a huge fan of Kizomba music, and attends dance conventions devoted to this genre. Perhaps because this performance is eclectic squared, the video never took off to the point of going viral. But it does stand as a testament to Yan’s creative independence, deep background, and strong convictions. And it may have been the video that got him in trouble.

In all his videos, Yan followed the methods that Thai activists in Thailand use to steer clear of Article 112, the lese majesty law: they target Dictator Prayut (rather than the monarchy), state indisputable facts, ask innocent questions, and/or use symbols several steps removed from the thing they symbolize. And more recently all the activists, Yan included, are simply reasserting their legal and human right to political dissent. For instance, in a recent tic toc video made with a member of Faiyen band, Yan wore a t-shirt saying (in Thai) “Repeal the lese majesty law. Reform the monarchy,” which are the central demands of the Thai prodemocracy movement at the moment.

As has been proved over and over, trying to steer clear of the lese majesty law is pointless if the Thai powers-that-be find you annoying and want to get rid of you. Just ask protest musician Port Faiyen who is charged with lese majesty (Article 112) for commenting on a coup IN TURKEY. On the other hand, it’s impossible to imprison everyone speaking out about the current king, especially when their criticism is valid. Given the uneven and nonsensical application of 112, just doing what seems right and letting the chips fall where they may, isn’t such a terrible strategy.

During the Save Faiyen campaign (and many other campaigns defending the human rights of targeted dissidents), Yan was a rare non-Thai who would openly join the campaign—usually because he was already an enthusiastic fan of the dissident’s work. When Port Faiyen was arrested in Thailand (though everyone had thought he was in France), Yan was one of the first to report the full story in English. When weighing the choice between staying silent and safe, or using his voice to help someone, he repeatedly chose to help.

On his recent vacation to France (Yan is French), he met with members of Faiyen band–Jom, Khuntong, Tito, and Yammi–who have been granted asylum in France as political refugees, and he even made several tic toc videos with Yammi. This visit appeared to be a peak experience. The chemistry between everyone was clear from the many social media pictures and video. In my favorite tic toc video, Yammi plays a doctor while Yan plays a royalist patient whose reported symptom is that he gets enraged when anyone insults the monarchy. Yammi examines him, then diagnoses: “It’s that you don’t have a heart. And you don’t have a brain either . . . It’s hard to treat, but don’t lose hope. You just need to increase your knowledge and empathy for other people. Then you will be able to tolerate different opinions. For instance . . .” And she leans down and whispers in his ear, “We must reform the monarchy.” Yan responds with an Oscar-worthy scream.

The dissident artists make fun videos, but their plight is dead serious. Eight friends of Faiyen band were assassinated between 2016 and 2019, including two of Port Faiyen’s former roomates (DJ Zunho and Siam Teerawut). Siam was an informal member of Faiyen band. Port himself is awaiting trial in Thailand over nonsense lese majesty charges. Rap Against Dicatorship artist Dechathorn Bamrungmuang, has been in and out of jail, and was warned last week by Apple that his phone may be hacked by a government. At least three people who guest stared in that hilariously funny music video that Yan adapted into English-language and afro-Latin musical style are currently in jail facing possible life sentences (Penguin, Rung, and Pai, aka the leaders of the current prodemocracy movement.)

In getting kicked out of Thailand for silly music videos, Yan is in great company. The exact same thing happened to Yammi after her music video “ขันแดงแสลงใจ” “Offended by a Red Bowl.” Perhaps this tragedy can’t be changed, but I thought I would give my unique perspective on how the story unfolded, so you might better understand why Yan Marchal went out on a limb for Thai democracy.