This morning, the Thai government’s Public Relations Department (PRD) removed a music video from its YouTube channel, only a few hours after posting it. The video had received overwhelmingly negative feedback, not only for its divisive content but also because it was produced with public funds.
The video was reminiscent of the clips played on television to accompany the national anthem: beatific images of soldiers, monks, and farmers. Such imagery has been a mainstay of state broadcasting for decades, reinforcing the traditional royalist-nationalist ideology of ‘nation, religion, king’. The PRD’s video also featured an overtly patriotic song on its soundtrack: เพลง ธงชาติ (‘song of the national flag’), sung by the Wattana Little Angels children’s choir. (The recording is from a 2012 PBS TV performance, and the choir was misnamed “Little Angles” [sic] by the PRD.)
The backlash against the video was sparked by a line from the song, “นานแค่ไหนที่เหมือนคนไทยลืมรักชาติ” (‘for how long have Thai people forgotten to love their country?’), accompanied by footage of recent anti-government protests at Thammast University and Bangok’s Democracy Monument. This juxtaposition vilified the protesting students as unpatriotic, in an attempt to undermine public support for their pro-democracy campaign.
The Thai military has a long history of demonising citizens who oppose its political influence. In 1976, military radio stations broadcast the propaganda song หนักแผ่นดิน (‘scum of the earth’), labelling students as traitors and provoking the 6th October massacre of Thammasat students by right-wing militia groups. In 2010, pro-democracy ‘red-shirt’ protesters were branded terrorists to justify the massacre at Ratchaprasong.