In October 2018, Rap Against Dictatorship (RAD) became famous because of their song, “ประเทศกูมี” (“My Country Has”). In the hip-hop number, the young collective spit lyrics against corruption, abuse of power, and fascism. Their youtube video has 88 million views.
On 18 July 2020, members of the group, including 30-year-old Dechathorn “Hockey” Bamrungmuang, joined the Democracy Monument’s pro-democracy protest. They sang from the stage.
On the morning of 20 August, Dechathorn drove home with his family and found a group of policemen waiting for him at his residential neighborhood entrance.
Dechathorn is one of some 30 people charged with various crimes, including public disturbance and holding a political rally during the emergency decree.
What was it like to be arrested?
I was driving with my wife and our one-year-old child. The police were waiting for me at the entrance. I negotiated with them if I could take my car home first before they take me into custody. At first, they wouldn’t let me, but I said, this is a housing project, and there’s only one entrance [no way to escape]. So they eventually let me.
I had to call my younger brother, who was at work nearby to come to pick up my kid. My wife and I got in the police van, and we went to the police station together.
For how long were you detained?
I was taken to Samranrat Police Station and stayed for about four hours to sort out some documents. The police said they are arresting five activists that day.
How was your experience with the police?
The police were pretty decent. They said they would file the case with the court within the day so that I could receive bail as soon as possible.
They even bought us lunch. They kept saying that they were only following orders. I’m not sure who gave the arrest order, but they didn’t treat me like a criminal.
Do you think this is their way of creating fear?
I don’t think the arrest works judging from all the protests we’ve been seeing. If you keep arresting us one by one, there will always be someone new to speak up. The more you do this, the bigger the protests will be, the angrier the people will be.
Will you stop joining the protests?
I will always be performing on the stage. Am I scared? Yes, a little. I’m not among the protest organizers, but we would always try to do the best we can when they invite RAD to perform.
With the arrest, I’m worried about my family and my job. But I won’t stop. When we are on the stage, we are one with the people.
In the past, activists have been abducted (อุ้ม), do you worry the same might happen to you?
No, I think that would be a little strange to happen to me. We are not doing anything outside the system. We are very visible and always in the news.
No one should get abducted, but it has happened. Also, Ja New [pro-democracy activist Siravit Sereethiwat] was assaulted. These things do happen. If you ask me am I scared, the answer is no, not yet anyway. But anything can happen. If the situation goes that way, then I would probably be afraid.