BANGKOK — The rhymes came to Nutthapong Srimuong before dawn, when Bangkok is as still as it can be and the night jasmine overpowers the Thai capital with its perfume.
The country whose capital is turned into a killing field
Whose charter is written and erased by the army’s boots
The country that points a gun at your throat
Where you must choose to eat the truth or bullets
A largely nocturnal individual, Mr. Nutthapong, 30, had worked on a few bars of a rap song, “What My Country Has Got,” for months. Then he abandoned the project.
But the rule of Thailand’s military junta had stretched past the four-year mark. Restrictions on free speech showed little sign of abating. Elections, frequently promised, never materialized.
What My Country’s Got.” Within a week, the music video had collected 20 million views online — in a country of 70 million people with a general aversion to dissent borne of prison sentences meted out to those who oppose the government.
three-fingered salute from the “Hunger Games” films and books.
Hundreds of Thais have been sent to “attitude adjustment” camps. A computer crimes act and a sedition law have been used to imprison activists, human rights groups say.
As more and more Thais listened to “What My Country’s Got,” the government responded with its own rap song, “Thailand 4.0.”
“There are lots of talented Thais if we work together,” went one lyric that accompanied a video in which a bespectacled girl built a robot. To date, the video has been viewed 4.6 million times, compared with 56 million for “What My Country’s Got.”
Mr. Prayuth, who has written several syrupy songs of his own, including “Fight for the Nation,” blasted Rap Against Dictatorship’s harder-edged effort.
“Anyone who shows appreciation for the song must accept responsibility for what happens to the country in the future,” he told the local news media. Talk of a criminal investigation ensued, and Mr. Nutthapong worried about arrest.
But Mr. Prayuth is running for prime minister in next month’s polls, and detaining the rapper behind a viral video is not a winning campaign strategy.