Punks under the cosh

Almost 20 police officers from Bowon Mongkol Police Station went to close down the punk concert hosted by the Facebook page ‘It’s almost 4 years already, I Sadd’’ at The Overstay, Charan Sanitwong, on 21 September, on the grounds that it was a political event and permission had not been requested from the authorities.

Photo from Facebook Page: Banrasdr Photo

The Facebook page ‘It’s almost 4 years already, I Sadd’ is a gathering of punk musicians who wish to communicate to the general public that we’ve been with the NCPO for a long time and we want an election. They were preparing to hold a music event called BNK44: 4 years and We only Get to Eat Fortune Cookies, a reference to “Koisuru Fortune Cookie”, a song performed by the idol group BNK48. The group’s 22-year-old captain, Cherprang Areekul, was invited to be one of the commentators of Thailand Moves Forward programme to help promote the work of Gen Prayut’s government. The ‘44’ stands for Article 44 of the 2014 interim constitution which gives unrestricted power to the head of NCPO to issue executive, legislative, and judicial orders which are absolute and subject to no legal accountability. Even though the 2017 constitution has come into force, it still upholds this authority.

The BNK44: 4 years and We only Get to Eat Fortune Cookies event was advertised through a Facebook page which has around 10,349 followers. Police stated that the music event is a political activity. There was singing, speeches and use of political symbols, for which the venue did not seek permission from the authorities.

The organisers tried to negotiate the possibility that the event could still be held by guaranteeing that there would no speeches or any display of political symbols on stage. But the authorities did not agree and asked in detail to see the business license for the venue. Photographs of participants were taken and  their ID cards were checked. Photographs of news reporters were also taken and their ID cards checked. The organisers eventually announced the cancellation of the event at around 7.00 pm.

“The officers told us to stop the activity even though we hadn’t done anything wrong at all. The reason we had to cancel the event was because we didn’t want to see people that didn’t know anything and had nothing to do with us get into trouble, like the owner of the venue where we held the event,. We’re just kids that like punk music, borrowing their place to play some music.” ‘Niranam’ (‘Anonymous’), one of the organisers, said in an interview with Prachatai.

Earlier on 12 May, on the 4-year anniversary of the 2014 coup d’état, the Admin of the ‘It’s almost 4 years already, I Sadd’ Facebook page hosted a punk music event at the 14th October Memorial. Niranam said that they have been holding this kind of event for a while, doing the rounds of various places, mostly large pubs. However, in May they wanted it to be a little special, so they held it at the Memorial, the first outside event.

“This is also a very normal event for underground punk people. Political punk or Crust Punk are songs related to political criticism. If they don’t play their own songs, they would cover songs played by other bands such as the Sex Pistols, Green Day,” Niranam said.

“As for punk, we may view it only through its form; Mohawk cuts and dyed hair, piercings, tattoos, looking at it superficially. Our style is Crust Punk, so it would be skinhead, black clothes and talks about politics. But seen from a punk’s viewpoint, there is criticism in everything. In Southeast Asia, such as Indonesia, it’s almost mainstream to use punk music as a tool to speak to the state. Even in Myanmar, we can see it in the documentary ‘My Buddha is Punk’ (2015); it is a way of life, a tool used to speak to the state. Therefore, punk is not something superficial that is only about clothes but is a kind of culture and in content, often talks about politics. The heart of punk is to take apart old things and create new ones, to rebel against the old ways.”

Nevertheless, before the event, the page changed the name to ‘It’s almost 4 years’ after officials of the 14th October Memorial contacted them, requesting the event name be changed. The reason given was that when their request to use the Memorial was submitted, there was no ‘I Sadd’, so there was no problem and it was sent to the higher-ups. Later on, they found out that there was also ‘I Sadd’. From experience, they felt that the may be a great risk, state officials would appear and it would affect their image, since many children visit the Memorial.

On the evening of the event, police officers, both in uniform and plain clothes, were scattered across the area, keeping watch. The performance continued until around 11.00 pm. After the music band “Batso” finished playing, one of the 3 musicians, “Kuea PurePunk” and 4 of his fans were summoned to Chana Songkhram Police Station for an investigation of their backgrounds, because during the performance violent words were directed towards Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and a poster with Prayut’s picture on it was burned.

 

At first, police asked for urine samples and looked for drugs. The musicians objected, saying that they would not refuse but would not submit until their lawyer arrived. Police then decided only to investigate their background in detail before releasing them.