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.

ตราบที่ฉันยังมีลมหายใจ (As Long As I Have Breath)

By Rishadan Port (composed at the end of 2019)

This song, previously only viewed by a small group while Port Faiyen was in hiding, is now widely available and it is stunning. It was composed at the end of 2019. The context is that Port, who a year earlier had been a refugee in Laos, had snuck back into Thailand because of a life-threatening illness to be cared for by his own doctor and family (you can see how thin he is in the video). Meanwhile his comrades in Laos were being picked off by state-sponsored death squads (a total of 8 had been murdered at this point, including 6 in the previous 12 months). The rest of Faiyen band had flown to France that summer to accept an offer of asylum, escaping the death threats in Laos, but Port was too sick to join them. In the song Port faces his situation realistically and vows to .keep fighting to the last breath to realize his goals, even if he expects to fall short of them. Port says this song is autobiographical. He was thinking about his sickness and the fate of his comrades, and also about how Somsak Jeamteerasukul must have felt after the Thammasat University Massacre in 1976. Ahjahn Somsak, who now lives in France, was a student leader on the day the students were massacred, and afterwards spent two years in jail; His continued prodemocracy work inspred the 10 Demands for Reform of the Monarchy, at the heart of student protests today.*

ผ่านคืนวันเหน็บหนาวมาเนิ่นนาน
Passing days and nights feeling cold for so long now
ผ่านคืนวันปวดร้าวมาเนิ่นนาน
Passing days and nights broken hearted for so long now
อยู่กับความอ้างว้างและเคว้งคว้าง
Living with loneliness and wandering
อยู่กับความผิดหวังที่ยังค้าง
Living with disappointment that is still unresolved/unfinished

ถึงแม้วันเวลาจะผ่านไปแค่ไหน
However much time passes
ถึงแม้ฤดูกาลจะเปลี่ยนไปเท่าไหร่
However much the seasons change
แต่หัวใจมันยังไม่ลืมเลือน
My heart still doesn’t forget

และในวันนี้แม้ความหวัง
And today, even if my hope
ถูกเหยียบย่ำซ้ำจนเกือบพัง
Is run down, again and again until it nearly collapses
และยังมีบาดแผลที่ยังฝัง
And injuries have left cuts
อยู่ในห้วงลึกของจิตใจ
Deep in my heart
ถึงแม้วันเวลาจะผ่านไปแค่ไหน
However much time passes
ถึงแม้ฤดูกาลจะเปลี่ยนไปเท่าไหร่
However much the seasons change
แต่หัวใจมันยังไม่ลืมเลือน
My heart still doesn’t forget

แม้จะเป็นอย่างไร สุดท้ายจะเป็นอย่างไร
No matter how I am doing; whatever the ending will be
ถึงแม้ว่ามันจะเจ็บปวดร้าวในใจ
No matter if it will deeply hurt my heart
ต่อให้ลมพายุกระหน่ำเพียงไหน
However much the storm hammers
แต่หัวใจมันยังจะเดินก้าวไป
My heart still will keep traveling forward
จุดไฟแห่งฝันให้มันลุกโชน
A spark for my dreams so they blaze
และจะต้องคว้ามันมาให้ได้
And I must grab them for myself, whatever it takes
ตราบที่ฉันยังมีลมหายใจ
As long as I still have breath . . .

และหากวันสุดท้ายจะมาถึง
And if the last day arrives
ตระหนักในทุกห้วงที่คำนึง
I’ll realize every part of what I contemplated
มันอาจไปไม่ถึงซึ่งจุดหมาย
May not have arrived at the goal
แต่ตราบใดที่ฉันยังไม่ตาย
But as long as I don’t die
ถึงแม้วันเวลาจะผ่านไปแค่ไหน
However much time passes
ถึงแม้ฤดูกาลจะเปลี่ยนไปเท่าไหร่
However much the seasons change
แต่หัวใจมันยังไม่ลืมเลือน
My heart still doesn’t forget

แม้จะเป็นอย่างไร สุดท้ายจะเป็นอย่างไร
No matter how I am doing. However the ending will be
ถึงแม้ว่ามันจะเจ็บปวดร้าวในใจ
Even if it will deeply hurt my heart
ต่อให้ลมพายุกระหน่ำเพียงไหน
However much the storms pound
แต่หัวใจมันยังจะเดินก้าวไป
My heart will keep moving forward
จุดไฟแห่งฝันให้มันลุกโชน
A spark for my dreams so they blaze
และจะต้องโค่นมันลงให้ได้
And I must pull this down, whatever it takes**
เปลี่ยนความพ่ายแพ้ให้เป็นพลัง
Turn defeat into power
จุดไฟแห่งฝันให้สว่างไสว
A spark for my dreams so they illuminate
ตราบที่ฉันยังมีลมหายใจ
As long as I still have breath . . .

*For more about Somsak Jeamteerasukul, see the Port song with this title, and also a spoof music video of the Thai Royal Anthem with pictures of Ahjahn Somsak substituted for pictures of the king. 

**The word I translated “this” is actually “it.” I don’t know if “it” refers to the dreams or to something else unspecified. I used “this” to accentuate the ambiguity. 

สถาบันกากสัส Sucky Institution

By Rishadan Port

Note: On July 30, 2016, Port Faiyen under his Rishadan Port Facebook account posted the lyrics to a song he had just finished. Now, five years later, he is being harrassed with a lese majesty charge for this post. The song was titled สถาบันกากสัส “Sataban Gaak Sat,” which does not mean anything per se, but includes the word “garbage” (“gaak”) and sounds like a pun on the word “Monarchy” (sataban gasat). Port says the title translates as “Sucky Institution.” The song asks (I’m paraphrasing here) “What institution oppresses and murders people, supports coups, forbids criticism, is overflowing with riches yet tells people to live with “just enough?” For anyone familiar with Thailand, one particular institution jumps to mind. Although, Port is a friend of mine, and as a policy checks my translations of his songs, in this case all I know from him is the title should be “Sucky Institution.” I did not inquire further into his intentions in the song, and the translation in this case is my own best guess. Retranslate if you like. Even if this song is about the monarchy, Port jumped through all the hoops required by the evil lese majesty law by stating everything indirectly. He shouldn’t have too. I think it is important context that JUST ONE MONTH before Port posted these lyrics his friend and former roommate, Itipon Sukipan or DJ Zunho, was disappeared and we now know assassinated, for his antimonarchist views. Port should be able to protest this atrocity, and many others, directly, but in Thailand the king can do anything at all with complete impunity because the lese majesty law punishes people who say anything negative about him. This is nothing but oppression. Below is a translation of the whole Facebook post, and a screenshot of the post (it is still up and public as of 10/4/2021) is beneath the translation.

เพลง สถาบันกากสัส
The Song Sucky Institution

สถาบันกากสัส สถาบันกากสัส
Sucky institution, sucky institution
สถาบันกากสัส สถาบันระยำๆๆ
Sucky institution, evil institution

สถาบันอะไร กดหัวผู้คน
What sort of institution intimidates/suppresses the people,
สั่งฆ่าประชาชน หนุนรัฐประหาร
orders the murder of citizens, supports coups?

สถาบันอะไร ห้ามคนวิจารณ์
What sort of institution forbids criticism [of itself],
ใช้อำนาจเผด็จการ ครอบงำสังคม
[and] uses dictatorial power to dominate society?

มันใช้งานผ่านศาล ทหาร ตำรวจ ไอ้สัสกะหมาๆๆ
It uses the bypassing of courts. [It uses] soldiers and police. Animal(s)! Dog(s)!

สถาบันกากสัส สถาบันกากสัส
Sucky instiutiton, sucky institution
สถาบันกากสัส สถาบันระยำๆๆ
Sucky institution, evil institution

สถาบันอะไร ผูกขาดความดี
What sort of institution, monopolizes merit/virtue,
แดกห่าภาษี ย่ำยีคนจน
devours *expletive* taxes, ravages poor people?
สถาบันอะไร ร่ำรวยสุดล้น
What sort of institution is completely overflowing with riches,
ทั้งโกงทั้งปล้น เสือกสอนให้คนพอเพียง
Both cheating and plundering, [then] butting in to teach people to live with “just enough”
มันไม่เคยจะพอ โลภหลงอำนาจ ไอ้สัสกะหมาๆๆ
For them it was never enough. Greedy, power hungry. Horrible animal dog!
สถาบันกากสัส สถาบันกากสัส
Sucky institution, sucky institution
สถาบันกากสัส สถาบันระยำๆๆ
Sucky institution, evil institution!
———————–
แต่งทำนองและท่อนฮุคไว้หลายเดือนแล้ว แต่เพิ่งแต่งเสร็จทั้งเพลงเมื่อไม่กี่วันที่ผ่านมา บันทึกเสียงในส่วนของกีต้าร์ไว้แล้ว หากโชคดีภายในปีนี้คงได้ฟังกันครับ (โชคไม่ดีก็ภายในปีหน้า)
I wrote the melody many months ago, but finished the whole song just a few days ago. I recorded some of the guitar part already. With luck, we can probably all hear it within this year.
ปล. สถาบันอะไรก็ไม่รู้นะครับ มีสถาบันตั้งหลายสถาบัน ตีความกันได้กว้างๆครับ
PS: What institution? I don’t know. There are so very many institutions. We can interpret it very broadly.

55555
Ha ha ha ha ha!

หลังคา Roof

by t_047 featuring Ammy The Bottom Blues

Note: I’m not sure if this song was originally a political song or if it is being repurposed for the prodemocracy movement. Either way it seems very meaningful to the crowds that gather. This version features Ammy the Bottom Blues and was sung at a rally December 2, 2020 at the 5-way intersection at Lad Phrao, Bangkok. Also check out an earlier version (only one ending verse is sung) live at “CAT EXPO 7” on November 23, 2020. I will post that below. It looks like some of the leaders of the prodemocracy movement may have just gotten out of jail on that occasion because they are all very emotional. And the adjustment to the last line in that version is “We will be a roof for you . . . when each person returns.”

วันใด ที่ใจร้อน กลับมานอน ในบ้านหลังเก่า
On any day that my heart is bothered I go back to sleep in an old house
ในที่ๆมีเรา ยังมีเงาความฝัน
In the right place, there is us and there is still the shadow of a dream
ไม่มีสายธารที่เย็นฉ่ำ ไม่มีสายลมจากฟ้า
There is no cold stream, no wind from the sky
แต่จะเป็นหลังคาให้ทุกเวลา ที่เธอเหนื่อยล้า
But there is a roof anytime you (my dear) are weary

ฉันไม่ใช่บ้านหลังใหญ่ ไม่มีอะไรให้พักพิง
I am not a big house, I don’t have anything for actually living here
เพียงคุ้มครองจากสิ่ง ที่โหดร้าย
I only protect from the things that are cruel
ไม่มีคำปลอบใดจะเอื้อนเอ่ย ไม่มีคำสัญญา
I don’t have any comforting words, no promises
แต่จะเป็นหลังคาให้ทุกเวลา ที่เธอเหนื่อยล้า
But I will be a roof for you anytime that you are weary

วันใดที่ใจหนาว เรื่องราวที่ไม่เป็นดั่งใจ
Any day that your heart is cold. Matters that you didn’t intend
จะคุ้มครองวิญญาณเธอไว้ ไม่มีหนาว
I will protect your soul so it isn’t cold
ไม่มีกองไฟให้ไออุ่น ไม่มีผ้าห่มหนา
I don’t have a fire of burning logs to keep you warm. I don’t have a thick blanket
แต่จะเป็นหลังคาให้ทุกเวลา ที่เธอเหน็บหนาว
But I’ll be a roof for you anytime that you, my dear, are cold

ฉันไม่ใช่บ้านหลังใหญ่ ไม่มีอะไรให้พักพิง
I am not a big house, I don’t have anything for actually living here
เพียงคุ้มครองจากสิ่ง ที่โหดร้าย
I only protect from the things that are cruel
ไม่มีคำปลอบใดเอื้อนเอ่ย ไม่มีคำสัญญา
I don’t have any comforting words, no promises
แต่จะเป็นหลังคาให้ทุกเวลา ที่เธอเหน็บหนาว
But I’ll be a roof for you any time that you are cold

วันใดมีเมฆฝน เปียกปอนจนเธอมีน้ำตา
Any day there are rainclouds. You are drenched until your tears flow
เข้ามาหลบรอให้ฝนซา อย่าไปไหน
Come in to escape it and wait for the rain to slow. Don’t go anywhere
ฉันไม่มีร่มคันใหญ่ เคียงข้างไปทุกเวลา
I don’t have a big umbrella beside me at all times
แต่จะเป็นหลังคาให้ทุกเวลา ที่เธอเปียกปอน
But I will be a roof for you, every time that you are soaked.

THE CROWD IS ASKED TO SING ALONG ON THE LAST VERSE:

ฉันไม่ใช่บ้านหลังใหญ่ ไม่มีอะไรให้พักพิง
I am not a big house, I don’t have anything for actually living here
เพียงคุ้มครองจากสิ่ง ที่โหดร้าย
I only protect from the things that are cruel
ไม่มีคำปลอบใดเอื้อนเอ่ย ไม่มีคำสัญญา
I don’t have any comforting words, no promises
แต่จะเป็นหลังคาให้ทุกเวลา เมื่อเธอกลับมา
But I will be a roof for you every time that you come back

[Extra last line (not in the original song)]:
พวกเราจะเป็นหลังคา จนกว่าประชาธิปไตยจะกลับมา
All of us will be a roof . . . until democracy returns

ชาวนาเฮี้ยน (The Farmers are Strong Enough to Do It)

By Faiyen ไฟเย็น with อานนท์ นำภา Anon Nampa on flute!
Lyrics by Gluay Faiyen (2017); melody by แอ๊ด คาราบาว Add Carabao (1987)

This song, written in 2017, is MUST SEE for all Carabao fans. It is a spoof of หำเฮี้ยน (Ham is Strong Enough to Do It) written by แอ๊ด คาราบาว Add Carabao, and published in 1985. A translation and explanation of หำเฮี้ยน (Ham is Strong Enough to Do It) at the Carabao in English website. Add Carabao is one of the most talented singer/songwriters in the world. He used to be openly on the prodemocracy side with many songs vividly describing the plight of poor Thai farmers and laborers; then he became famous for praising Bhumipol the loudest. Given that history, his older fans (of which I am certainly one) would want him to make a comment on the current situation. Interestingly, Lek Carabao, has recently written songs to help the prodemocracy side. Oh! And notice that famous human rights lawyer Anon Nampa, currently an imprisoned leader of the pro-democracy movement, played flute on this song.

เสียงจากชาวนาผู้ทำนาปลูกข้าว
The voice from the farmers, people working the fields, planting rice
ค้ำชูพี่น้องไทยเรา
Holding up us Thai brothers and sisters
ชาวดิน ชาวฟ้า ยาจก ขอทาน
People of the Land, People of the Sky, paupers, beggars
แต่เหตุไฉน อ้างเอาเราไปประจาน
But how come you claim to take us and expose us as evidence
สร้างความเจ็บปวดร้าวราน
Building up our pains and laments
เป็นตำนานสร้างศิลปิน
to be a legend creating the artist

ยายไฮ ตาผุย ยายสา บุญมา ตาสี
Grandmother Hai,* Grandmother Pui, Granmother Sa, Bunma, Grandmoter See [?]
เรียกร้องชั่วนาตาปี
Crying out endlessly
ถูกเขาย่ำยีกดขี่เรื่อยมา
Have been oppressed and tyrannized by them continuously
ต่อสู้มานานกับเผด็จการจนเอือมระอา
[We] fight with the dictatorship for so long, [we’re] sick of it
ถูกเขาปราบปรามเข่นฆ่า
We’ve been suppressed and murdered by them
ตอบแทนชาวนาด้วยกระสุนปืน
[They] reply to the farmers with guns

พวกศิลปินเพื่อนเราเขาไปอยู่ไหน
All our artist friends, where did they go?
ทำไมไม่เห็นมีใคร
Why don’t we see anyone at all
ออกมาเคลื่อนไหวช่วยเราสักคน
coming out to help us in the movement?
ปล่อยให้เขาทำ ปู้ยี้ปู้ยำ ทำสัปดน
They just let them do it—bruising, doing obscene things
เข่นฆ่าพวกเราปี้ป่น
Killing us and stomping to dust
ตายเกลื่อนถนน แถมโดนตะราง
[We’re] dying here and there along the road, not to mention, thrown in prison.

คือเสียงวิงวอน อุทธรณ์ต่อศิลปิน
It’s the sound of imploring, pleading after the artists
กลับมาอยู่ข้างชาวดิน
Come back and be on the side of the People of the Land!
เลิกเลียตีนพวกศักดินา
Stop sucking up to more privileged people in the caste system
กระดูกสันหลังคือความหวังของมวลประชา
[That you find?] a backbone is the hope of all the masses
กลับมาอยู่ข้างชาวนา
Come back and be on the side of the farmers
จับเคียวเกี่ยวฟ้าให้มาเทียมดิน
Grab a sickle, hook the sky, bring it back down and harness it to earth.**

* ยายไฮ  (Yai Hai or Grandma Hai) refers to Mrs. ไฮ ขันจันทา Hai Khanjanta, an elderly woman in the Isaan region, who famously fought for 32 years for rights to land flooded when a small damn was built in 1977. This was without her consent and any compensation for her family. She insisted the government had no rights to do this to her land. She filed her complaints to the village leader, head of the district, and the governor without any answer from them. In 2003, 28 years after the construction of the dam, she and her family members used hoes and spades to destroy the dam to regain her land. They were charged with vandalism of public property. Her story attracted media attention. Everyone asked why she didn’t get compensation for her loss. Then-Prime Minister Thaksin ordered waters from the dam be released so that she could regain her land. And 5 years later the government paid her family a few million baht. She’s become an icon since then. The other names are common and might not refer to anyone in particular.

**The metaphor of Heaven being harnessed to Earth is often heard. In a probably unrelated instance, Add Carabao (the artist who wrote the song this song is spoofing, and is the main target of the “come back and be on the side of the farmer” message) uses the metaphor 2012 in little-known song ode that is an ode to music itself. From มาเถอะมาร้องเพลง (Come, Come On and Sing a Song) (the link will take you to Carabao in English website):

“A picture/scenario of love [from the song],
Blossoming a world that is beautiful
If we there is no war
Heaven also stays bound to Earth
The little picture/scenario of the song
Is a strength that doesn’t end
As long as humans are still hearing it
And are amused from now on
Continuously amused . . .”

I believe there is a double meaning in that there is no huge gap between the royalty and elite (represented by the sky) and the poor (represented by the ground), as well as a “things are as they should be” connotation, in that the “heavenly things” are with us or close to us–a heaven on earth. Also see the song “Rung,” at this site, where a rainbow connects heaven and earth and the young people SKATEBOARD up and down the rainbow (like it is nothing). The song “Rung” has other wonderful atheist imagery.

รุ้ง Rung [the name means “Rainbow”]

By วงสามัญชน or Commoner, featuring Jacoboi (of Rap Against Dictatorship)

Approximate translation of the introduction under the Music video: “On the occasion of the anniversary of the rally at Thammasat University and the night that “Rung” broke through a ceiling by proposing the 10 [political] Demands. May this song therefore record the story of this struggle for a democracy of the people so [the history] does not disappear.”

“Rung” is the nickname of Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul; it means “Rainbow.” The 10 demands, which she read on stage August 10, 2020, were demands for reform of the monarchy to bring it under the constitution. Implementation of these demands would of course doom Vajiralongkorn (who appears to be a serial killer among countless other examples of immorality and lawlessnes), but would allow a monarchy accountable to the people to survive. Rung agreed to present the 10 demands knowing she would likely go to prison, possibly for decades. For understanding of the song be aware that “the sky” or “the heavens” represents the royalty and their allies. Notice the symbols of rejection of religion in this video, including a version of Michelangelo’s Hand of Adam touching Hand of God image, with the hand of God altered to be the one begging for something of Man! And you can’t miss the scary Vajiralongkorn spider-monster defending his palace with shipping containers!!!

ขอให้ทุกๆดวงวิญญานที่แค้นคับเทวดาฉุดฟ้าให้ร่วงลงมาบนพื้นดิน
May every soul angry with the gods pull down the heavens so they fall down to the earth [THIS LINE ILLUSTRATED WITH THE PICTURES OF WANCHALEARM SATSAKSIT, WHO WAS ASSASSINATED]

เราบังเอิญเจอกันท่ามกลางผู้คนหมื่นพันที่เรียกร้องตามความฝันที่ฟ้ายังกลัว
We unexpectedly meet each other amongst the throngs of people making demands according to their dream, of which the sky is still afraid.*
เราจึงเป็นพยานในคืนที่รุ้งทลายเพดานที่ขีดไว้เมื่อฉันและเธอได้สบตานี่ใช่มั้ยที่เรียกว่าความกล้า
So we were witnesses the night that Rung broke through the ceiling that had been set. Your eyes met mine in a look saying, “That’s what you call courage, don’t you think!?”
รอคอยวันนี้มาเนิ่นนาน (มาเนิ่นนาน) แต่คืนนี้ไม่ต้องทนอีกต่อไป
We’ve been waiting for this day for so long. (For so long.) But after this night, we won’t suffer in silence ever again.**
ในกรงขังยังมีดวงดาวส่องแสงทัาทายฟากฟ้าบอกฟ้าว่าถึงเวลา
In the jail there are still stars shining their defiant light to the sky, telling the sky, “It’s time!”

ขอให้ทุกๆดวงวิญญานที่แค้นคับเทวดาฉุดฟ้าให้ร่วงลงมาบนพื้นดิน
May every soul/spirit angry with the gods pull down the heavens so they fall to the earth

Rap by Jacobi: [He shouts out a couple things first]
เมื่อสายรุ้งพาดสะพานจากแผ่นดินขึ้นสู่ฟ้า
When a Rainbow arches in a bridge from the land up into the sky
จะพลิกฟ้าคว่ำแผ่นดินด้วยสองมือและสองเท้า
We will flip the sky and land upside-down with our own two hands and feet.
ไม่สนว่าใครจะตีตรากูจะเป็นกระเบื้องหรือน้ำเต้า
I’m not interested in who will brand me as a tile or calabash gord [this line and the next refers to an old prophesy some Thais are afraid of]***
จะพาขี้ครอกให้ออกจากตรอกแล้วเผาผู้ดีเป็นขี้เถ้า
We will take the slave out of the alley and burn the gentleman into ashes***
โค่นล้มบัลลังค์ ตั้งปรัมพิธี บริกรรมบทสวดชุมนุมเทวดา
Overthrow the throne. Set up an “ancient” ceremony, arrange prayers for a group of gods/angels
เรียกโคตรเรียกเหง้าพวกมึงลงมา
Call the ancestors of you all to come down
ทำประชาพิพากษ์ให้สมโทษานุโทษที่พวกมึงสูบกิน
Do a people’s court to hand out suitable punishment and you people will have to eat it.
กระชากจากฟ้า ลงมาสู่ดิน ให้ลิ้มรสละอองธุลีใต้ตีนที่กูต้องอยู่ต้องกิน
Yank [you people] from the sky down to earth in order to taste “the dust under the feet” where I must live and eat.****

รอคอยวันนี้มาเนิ่นนาน (มาเนิ่นนาน) แต่คืนนี้ไม่ต้องทนอีกต่อไป
We’ve been waiting for this day for so long. (For so long.) But after this night, we won’t suffer in silence ever again. [CARTOON OF ADAM’s HAND touching God’s Hand (with God in the position of asking MAN for something)]

รอคอยวันนี้มาเนิ่นนาน (มาเนิ่นนาน) แต่คืนนี้ไม่ต้องทนอีกต่อไป
We’ve been waiting for this day for so long. (For so long.) But after this night, we won’t suffer in silence ever again.**
ในกรงขังยังมีดวงดาวส่องแสงทัาทายฟากฟ้าบอกฟ้าว่าถึงเวลา
In the jail there are still stars shining their defiant light to the sky, telling the sky, “It’s time!”
2X

*”The sky,” symbolizing the royals and their allies, are afraid the dream will spread.

**ทน means “to endure” (suffering), so in the context it’s cross between “we won’t hold back our thoughts any more” and “we won’t put up with this shit ever again” so I translated “ทน” as “suffer in silence.”

The prophesy is .
“กระเบื้องจะเฟื่องฟูลอย น้ำเต้าน้อยจะถอยจม
The tile will prosper and float, the calabash gord will sink [opposite of what usually happens]
ผู้ดีจะเดินตรอก ขี้ครอกจะเดินถนน”

The gentleman walks in the alley, the slave will walk in the road

The prophesy is taken to mean that taken to mean that some day the country will face catastrophe and will be dominated by bad people.

****Thais were taught to say they are dust under the feet of the king. Obviously, the young people are not going along with it. 

ไม่มีคนบนฟ้า There Is No One in the Sky

by t_047 featuring  ไผ่ ดาวดิน Pai Daodin

ไม่มีความศรัทธา ไม่มีคนบนฟ้า
There is no faith. There is no one up in the sky.
มีเพียงเธอและฉัน ใต้ฟ้าเดียวกัน
There is only you and me under the one sky
ไม่มีความศรัทธา ไม่มีคนบนฟ้า
There is no faith. There is no one up in the sky
มีเพียงเธอและฉันใต้ฟ้าเดียวกัน
There is only you and me under the same sky

(ไอ้มันผู้ใดตั้งตนใหญ่กว่าไพร่ฟ้า
Whoever sets themselves up to be greater than the citizens*
ไอ้มันผู้นั้นยิ่งต่ำช้าด้อยศักดิ์ศรี
That person is all the more inferior and ignoble
มันผู้ใดไม่เห็นค่าประชาชี
Whoever sees no value in the people
มันจะไร้ปฐพี ที่เคียงกาย
That person will be left without earth to lie in)**

อยู่สูงไปเผื่ออะไร เมื่อฟ้าที่มองไม่ต่างไป
What’s the point of a high station, when the sky one sees is no different?
เธอจะปีนขึ้นไปเผื่ออะไร เมื่อฟ้าที่มองไม่ต่างไป
Why would you climb up there, when the sky you’ll see won’t be any different?

ไม่มีความศรัทธา ไม่มีคนบนฟ้า
There is no faith. There is no one up in the sky.
มีเพียงเธอและฉัน ใต้ฟ้าเดียวกัน
There is only you and me under the one sky
ไม่มีความศรัทธา ไม่มีคนบนฟ้า
There is no faith. There is no one up in the sky
มีเพียงเธอและฉันใต้ฟ้าเดียวกัน
There is only you and me under the same sky

(เมื่อฟ้าไร้ซึ่งทวยเทพเทวดา
(When the Sky is devoid of angels
มีแต่สัตว์สิงสามัวเสพสม
And there are only wild animals in heat
มันหันคมเขี้ยวเข้ารายล้อมจนตรอมตรม
They gnash their teeth and surround their helpless victims
และเหยียบย่ำจนสังคมจมบาทา)
And stomp on them until society collapses underfoot)

เธอมีเพียงสองตา ฉันมีเพียงสองตา
You have only two eyes. I have only two eyes
หวังจะมองฟ้าใต้พสุธาเดียวกัน
I hope you’ll look at the sky rooted in the same land
เธอมีเพียงสองตา ฉันมีเพียงสองตา
You have two eyes. I have two eyes
หวังจะมองฟ้าใต้พสุธาเดียวกัน
I hope you’ll look at the sky rooted in the same land

ไม่มีความศรัทธา ไม่มีคนบนฟ้า
There is no faith. There is no one up in the sky.
มีเพียงเธอและฉัน ใต้ฟ้าเดียวกัน
There is only you and me under the one sky
ไม่มีความศรัทธา ไม่มีคนบนฟ้า
There is no faith. There is no one up in the sky
มีเพียงเธอและฉันใต้ฟ้าเดียวกัน
There is only you and me under the same sky

ศักดินาจงพินาศ ประชาราษฎร์จงเจริญ
Down with Feudalism! Long Live the People!

(no god no king only human)***

* In a song about equality, I don’t want to use a word that seems to downplay the value of ordinary people. But I should note that the word used here for “citizens” ไพร่ฟ้า, also has the connotation of “commoner” as opposed to royalty. 

**The line มันจะไร้ปฐพี ที่เคียงกาย actually says “That person will be without earth beside their body” but a similar phrase, commonly said of someone who betrays their country is ตายไปไม่มีแผ่นดินฝัง “They will die and not have a land to buried in. The line used is probably a convoluted version of that so it ends in เคียง (beside) for the sake of the rhyme.

*** This line is written in as part of the official lyrics, but I don’t hear it spoken. It is scrawled on a wall at the end of the music video. “No god. No King. Only humans” [in English] is a slogan being used by some in the Thai prodemocracy movement. I first noticed it being used by Ammy The Bottom Blues, who has several songs at this site, and is one of the leaders of the movement who was jailed for lese majesty and then released. His case is still pending, 

Message from Penguin (A poem to Rung and friends)

In October, 2020, Penguin (Parit Chiwarak) wrote a poem for Rung (whose name conveniently for the poem means Rainbow). Penguin and Rung were in jail at the time, both have been in and out since, and at least Penguin is in jail once again. As a whole, and on finer levels, the poem is stunning. Penguin appears to be evoking จิตร ภูมิศักดิ์ Jit Phumisak, a progressive/communist revolutionary who also wrote at least one poem from prison and who died young. Jit Phumisak wrote some of the best songs archived here at Music of Thai Freedom, including แสงดาวแห่งศรัทธา Starlight of Faith, and ฟ้าใหม่ New Sky. Echoes of both songs appear in this poem. The picture of Rung is a screenshot I grabbed from the music video กล้ามาก เก่งมาก ขอบใจ So Daring! So Talented! Thank You.

ข้อความจากเพนกวิน
A Message from Penguin
แด่รุ้ง และเพื่อนผู้ต้องขังทางการเมืองทุกคน
To Rung, and all of my political prisoner friends

ฟ้าขื่นค่ำคืนหนาว
The sky is bitter, the night is cold
ยะเยือกร้าวกระดูกไข
Shivering to the bone
ลมพัดโหมซัดไอ
A gust of wind blows
ละอองฝน กระเซ็นสาย
mists of raindrops

มองเดือนก็เดือนดับ
[You] look at the moon [but] it’s a [dark] new moon
มองดาวอับลับแสงพราย
[You] look at the stars, their sparkling faint and muted
คืนนี้นอนเดียวดาย
This night is so lonesome
ในกรงขัง อันวังเวง
In a lonely cell

เงี่ยหูฟังสุ้มเสียง
Lend an ear and hear the sound
หาใช่เสียงดนตรีเพลง
It’s not the music of a song
คือถ้อยร้อยบรรเลง
It’s a string of words making music
แห่งคืนมืดประโคมขาน
in the dark night, proclaiming and calling out

ที่ฟาดคือฟ้าร้อง
What beats is thunder
ใช่เสียงกลอง ย่ำโมงกาล
Not the sound of a drum [telling] the hour
ที่ดัง แว่วกังวาล
What loudly resounds in the distance
ใช่กระดิ่ง คือโซ่ตรวน
is not a bell but chains

ที่หวีดมาหวิวหวิว
The whistling sound
ใช่ขลุ่ยผิวหากลมหวน
is not a flute* but the moaning wind
ที่ขับคันธัพครวญ
What is crooned**,
คือเสียงเพรียกของผู้คน
It’s the cries of the people

เสียงคนผู้จนยาก
The sound of impoverished people
ได้ยินจากทุกแห่งหน
Heard from every place
เพลงเข็ญยังเล่นวน
A song of suffering plays and circulates
ระงมเลื่อนมิเลือนหาย
Loud and tumultuous, not dying out

คืนนี้แน่คืนยาก
This night is certainly difficult
ดังใจพรากพลัดจากกาย
As if the mind were separated from the body
ความเป็นคนมลาย
Your humanity melts away
พายุห้ำกระพือโหม
The storm rages

เธออาจจะหวาดหวั่น
You may be scared
เมื่อฟ้าลั่นประจัญโจม
When the sky rumbles and rushes in
หากฟ้าที่ถาโถม
If the sky that swoops down
ย่อมวัดมาตรขนาดใจ
is going to measure the size of your heart

เหล็กกล้าที่แกร่งดี
Steel that is good and strong
ต้องถูกตีและผ่านไฟ
Must be struck and go through fire
คนกล้ายิ่งกว่าใคร
Bold people more than anyone
ต้องผ่านภัยใจจึงทน
must pass dangers, the heart therefore endures

มีสู้ย่อมมีเจ็บ
Where there is struggle, there is pain
และหนาวเหน็บในบางหน
and shivering sometimes
แต่เพื่อประชาชน
But for the people,
จงทนทุกข์อย่างทนทาน
[one] must suffer and bear it

เพื่อเกียรติภูมิมั่น
For a reputation/dignity that is secure and certain,
จงยิ้มหยันอย่างอาจหาญ
we must boldly give a mocking smile
แสนปืนทั้งหมื่นมาร
A hundred thousand guns, all ten thousands obstacles
ฤ จะสู้เพียงหนึ่งใจ
Can just [our] one heart compete [with that]?

ที่ยืนหยัดในศรัทธา
In standing fast in [one’s] faith
ทนงกล้าบนทางไกล
Bravely enduring on the long path
อำนาจทมิฬใด
no cruel power of any kind
มิอาจข่มให้ก้มหัว
may force [us] to bow [our] heads

แม้ฝนกระหน่ำฟ้า
Even though the rain pounds
จงเชิดหน้าอย่าเกรงกลัว
[you] must raise your head, don’t be afraid and cower
ประกาศให้รู้ทั่ว
Let everyone everywhere know
ว่าฟ้าใหม่คืบใกล้มา
That the New Sky is inching closer

ถึงวันที่แสงส่อง
Until the day that the rays of light shine
อำไพผ่องทั่วท้องนภา
Bright and beautiful throughout the whole sky
ผองคนบนผืนหล้า
All the people on the land, then
จะลั่นกลองอย่างเกรียงไกร
Will rumble drums, mightily

วันนั้นคือวันพรุ่ง
That day is tomorrow
ย่อมเห็นรุ้งอร่ามไกล
We will see A Rainbow glittering far [across the place]
มวลชนจะมีชัย
The masses will have victory
และเป็นใหญ่ในแผ่นดิน
And be most important on the land***

เพนกวิน พริษฐ์ ชิวารักษ์
Penguin Parit Chiwarak
ผู้ต้องขังทางการเมือง ณ เรือนจำพิเศษกรุงเทพ
Political prisoner at Bangkok Remand Prison
29 ต.ค. 2563
October 29, 2020

*The flute represents a famous poet from the 1970s เนาวรัตน์ พงษ์ไพบูลย์ Pongpaiboon who wrote the famous poem “เพียงความเคลื่อนไหว” “Mere Movement” (available here in Thai)  but later became a Yellow Shirt. (In fact one of his collections is called “เพลงขลุ่ยผิว” (Songs of the Flute). He will be contrasted with another poet in the next two lines.

**This line contains a pun and actually reads:

ที่ขับคันธัพครวญ
What Kanthap/angels croon
คือเสียงเพรียกของผู้คน
It’s the cries of the people

วิสา คัญทัพ Wisa Kanthap is a famous poet from the 1970s who famously became a Red Shirt. The last name of the poet คันธัพ is actually used in the poem, but a very similar word would be “คนธรรพ์” which is a very specific type of angel, so the native speaker might hear that as well. Wisa Kanthap will be almost be quoted at the end of Penquin’s poem.

*** A poem by วิสา คัญทัพ Wisa Kanthap ends with the famous lines, “when the golden sky of glory comes, the people will be most important in the land.” That poem, in Thai, is HERE. (For a quick overview throw that text into google translate.)

This poem has many Easter eggs. You may find some yourself by comparing to other songs at Music of Thai Freedom, most especially the two Jit Phumisak songs mentioned in the intro,

สมเด็จ His Majesty*

By Risky Drop (lyrics by Rishadan Port)

Rishadan Port (aka Port Faiyen) was recently in jail (March 5 to May 12 2021) after being charged with lese majesty for three Facebook posts made way back in 2016. One post calls people who tattletale on each other for lese majesty foolish and cruel. Another notes a fact about about a coup in TURKEY! A final post lists lyrics for a new song about “A Very Sucky Institution,” one that oppresses and kills people. (In Thai, this “sucky institution” phrase rhymes with “monarchy”).

Coincidentally, Port posted his “Sucky Institution” lyrics just days after the disappearance of his former roomate Itipon Sukpaen (also known as Dj Zunho or Beer). And by 2019, SEVEN more of his antimonarchist friends would be dead, including yet another former roomate, Siam Teerawut! Yes two assasinated roomates in 3 years! Both DJ Zunho and Siam were young men when they disappeared never to return, leaving behind grieving friends and families–but what does that compare to the hurt feelings from Port’s song? After a 9th assassination, of Wanchalearm Satsaksit, we know pretty much conclusively that all 9 assassinations were ordered by King Vajiralongkorn, so if “Sucky Institution” means “Monarchy” then Port was right many times over. The government should drop this ridiculous case because the best way to defend Port is to review the overwhelming evidence that the monarchy has killed 8 of his friends—and was trying to kill him and all of Faiyen band just for SINGING SONGS!.

Throughout 2019 and 2020, Port was already sick with a life-threatening illness, unable to escape to France with the rest of Faiyen band because of it. And so he hid in plain sight in Thailand, which was possible because of the drastic weight loss from his illness. But he finally recovered enough to regain the lost weight, and was then instantly arrested and held without bail in jail, where he contracted covid-19 (on top of all his other troubles).

Port wrote several songs while in jail, and recorded this one within days of getting out of jail and then the hospital. You see here his prison haircut. This song is about Port’s observation that a caste system existed even among the prisoners, with some being very privileged. His band is called “Risky Drop” because prior to Port being arrested, he was, as I was said, hiding in plain sight in Thailand. So if the band were to drop an album (which they were working on) it would have been risky. (Get it?) Port is out of jail on bail and his ridiculous case is still pending. Please continue to follow this artist as fame helps keep him safe!

มีเงิน ร่ำรวย ทำอะไรก็ย่อมได้
If you have money and are rich, whatever you want to do, “Sure! You can do it!”
มีแต่คนคอยรับใช้ สั่งอะไรได้ดั่งใจ
Have people waiting to serve you, able to order anything one’s heart wishes
ไม่ต้องทนลำบากอย่างใครๆ
You don’t need to endure difficulties like just anybody
คนแบบนี้ เขาเรียกว่า สมเด็จ
People like this, they call “His Majesty”*

มีเงิน ร่ำรวย ซื้ออะไรก็ย่อมได้
If you have money and are rich, whatever you want to buy, you can probably buy it
ไม่ว่าอะไรก็ซื้อได้ สั่งอะไรได้ดั่งใจ
No matter what it is you can buy it, order whatever your heart desires
อภิสิทธิ์เขาเหนือกว่าใครๆ
Their privilege is above just anybody
คนแบบนี้ เขาเรียกว่า สมเด็จ
People like this, they are called “His Majesty”

ไหนใครบอกว่าคนเท่ากัน
How come they say people are equal,
แม้แต่ในคุกก็ยังมีชนชั้น
When even in the prison, there are still classes of people?
ไม่มีหรอกความยุติธรรม
There is no justice, (and don’t think there is)
ใครกล้าทำลายความอยุติธรรม
Who is brave enough to tear down injustice?

ไหนใครบอกว่าคนเท่ากัน
How come they say people are equal?
แม้แต่ในคุกก็ยังมีชนชั้น
Even in the prisons there are still classes
ไม่มีหรอกความยุติธรรม
There is no justice, (and don’t think there is)
ใครกล้าทำลายระบบอยุติธรรม
Who is brave enough to tear down injustice?

มีเงิน ร่ำรวย ทำอะไรก็ย่อมได้
If you have money, are rich, whatever you want to do, “Sure! You can do it!”
มีแต่คนอยากรับใช้ สั่งอะไรได้ดั่งใจ
There are only people wanting to serve you. You can order anything your heart desires
มีเงิน ร่ำรวย ซื้ออะไรก็ย่อมได้
If you have money, are rich, whatever it is, you can likely buy it.
ไม่ว่าอะไรก็ซื้อได้ สั่งอะไรได้ดั่งใจ
No matter what it is, you can buy it; order anything your heart desires.
ไม่ต้องทนลำบากต่อสิ่งใด
No need to endure difficulties with regard to anything
คนแบบนี้ เขาเรียกว่า สมเด็จ
People like this, they call “His Majesty“*

*The term “สมเด็จ,” Pronounced (“Somdet”) which I have translated, “His Majesty” is used for the king but is not exclusively used for the king. It can apply to the King, Queen, or others in the highest ranks, so maybe “Your Highness” would be a better translation.

โซตัส S.O.T.U.S [Hazing]

By Rap Against Dictatorship (featuring EP$ON, RAFA & Hockhacker)

Note: You can see the English-language translation provided with the video by clicking on the closed-captions (“cc”) button and selecting English. S.O.T.U.S. is the system of hazing of younger university students by older students. The acronym stands for “Senority, Order, Tradition, Unity, and Spirit.” The Thai prodemocracy movement has long been against it, with Netiwit “Frank” Chotipahtpaisal of Chulanlongkorn University and Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak of Thammasat Univerity being prominent activists working to reform or do away with the system as it often involves violence, humiliation, and intimidation, and teaches authoritarian values. The note under the video says, “Sotus สร้างชาติ ใช้รุ่นมาถืออำนาจ หล่อหลอม สร้างภาพ ใช้อำนาจไม่รับผิดชอบ,” which translates roughly: “S.O.T.U.S. creates a country that uses age groups to show their power, which teaches the idea that one can use power without responsibility.”