Arrests of prominent rappers and activists amid Bangkok protests spark outcry

Dechathorn Bamrungmuang of Rap Against Dictatorship and Thanayut Na Ayutthaya of Eleven Finger have been charged with sedition

The arrests of two prominent rappers and several activists following pro-democracy protests in Bangkok have sparked criticism by human rights organisations and advocacy groups.

Last week (August 20), Dechathorn Bamrungmuang, also known as HockHacker, was arrested alongside Thanayut Na Ayutthaya, a member of rap group Eleven Finger. The duo were part of a group of eight activists who were arrested by Thai police, first reported by Reuters.

Pro-democracy protests calling for urgent government reform, constitutional change and more have been sprouting all over the city in recent weeks. Human rights organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have issued statements criticising the authorities’ detainment of activists in these protests.

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The latest group to speak out is the artistic freedom advocacy group Freemuse, which yesterday (August 25) called for all charges against Bamrungmuang – a founding member of activist collective Rap Against Dictatorship – to be dropped.

According to The New York Times, he and Ayutthaya have been charged with sedition, a crime punishable by up to seven years in prison, along with defying an emergency decree banning public gatherings in light of the pandemic. The rappers have since been released on bail.

Before his arrest, Bamrungmuang performed at a youth-led pro-democracy protest on July 18. His appearance at the July 18 protest was captured in a video by Rap Against Dictatorship. Watch the video below.

Dr Srirak Plipat, Executive Director of Freemuse, said, “The arrest of and charges against Dechathorn Bamrungmuang for his music is a breach of the right to freedom of artistic expression and the cultural rights, and it violates Thailand’s international obligations under international laws including the ICCPR and ICESCR.”

On August 18, Thailand saw its largest protest since the country’s military coup, with VICE News reporting over 30,000 in attendance.

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