The Future of Political Dissent? Thai Activists Use Blockchain in “Rap Against Dictatorship”

At a time when there is a dark cloud over the cryptocurrency space like a net result of market conditions, infighting and the threat of regulatory action by the United States SEC, blockchain technology is still showing the world that its disruptive capacity is more than just potential. A recent series of events in Thailand underscores the growing importance and influence of blockchain use cases outside of cryptocurrency.

Thai Government and “Rap Against Dictatorship”

Source: YouTube | Rap Against Dictatorship

Since the 2014 military coup in Thailand, the country’s citizens have faced increasingly strict anti-dissent regulations which some say is tantamount to political repression. Though elections are scheduled for February 2019, the military regime continues to expand an increasingly aggressive policy toward civil society groups and anti-corruption activists. Against this backdrop, a Thai musical collective known as “Rap Against Dictatorship”, decided to record a rap song that has now become the unlikely focus of a significant struggle between Thailand’s old and new.

The eponymous song, which had a video shot in grayscale with typically gritty visuals of hip-hop culture, was a 5-minute excoriation of the Thai government and military, going after authorities on issues like corruption, judicial unfairness, regulatory high handedness, censorship, and repression. The song spared no one in authority as it used the street appeal of Thailand’s rap culture to spread a message of resistance against perceived government malfeasance in the South Asian country. Since its October release, it has gathered more than 30 million views.

Predictably, the Thai government reacted furiously, with police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul warning last month that the video may be in breach of Thai anti-defamation laws. Several artists involved in making the video were then summoned to testify before Thailand’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha even warned that Thais who watch, share or ‘like’ the YouTube video would “share the responsibility of the damage it does”.

Blockchain To The Rescue

Amid fears that the government was leaning on YouTube to remove the video, an unidentified activist decided to upload the song to a blockchain using an IPFS link embedded in a transaction on a privacy-focused blockchain called Zcoin (based on the Zerocoin protocol, not to be mistaken for the Zerocash protocol).

As a result, there is now a permanent and immutable copy of “Rap Against Dictatorship” on the blockchain at block number 111089, forever free of all Thai government censorship. In part as a result of this, the Thai government seems to have given up its efforts to create a chilling effect of the viewing and sharing of the song, which is a momentous first in a country that is notorious for having strict government censorship.

The potential impact of this across Southeast Asia and beyond is that blockchain technology can be leveraged not just as a tool for financial purposes as with cryptocurrency, but also as a tool for protecting freedom, political engagement, and democracy in jurisdictions with repressive governments. The promise of true decentralization of power can thus become a reality through blockchain implementations.

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