Do You Hear the Students Sing? A Guide to Verdict Protest Music

Students sing along to music during a protest at Chiang Mai University on Feb. 25, 2020.

BANGKOK — From scores lifted from a Western musical to ‘70s leftist anthems, students are adding music to their voices at the ongoing protests against the dissolution of the popular Future Forward Party.

Protest songs have always been part of rallies organized by every stripe of political groups in Thailand, and the “flash mobs” breaking out in universities across Thailand are no different.

First there’s “Do You Hear the People Sing,” a theme from the stage play Les Miserables, which saw the latest film adaptation in 2018. The song was used in a rally at Chulalongkorn University on Monday.

Top: Students at Chulalongkorn University on Monday sing “Do You Hear the People Sing?”

Naturally, lyrics from the rebellion-arousing song were often posted on social media by supporters of the Future Forward Party after its disbandment on Feb. 21.

And then there’s the revival of protest songs popularized by leftist student movement that challenged Thailand’s military regime and traditional elite in the 1970s

They include Phuea Muan Chon (“For the People”), written by Mahidol University student band Kammachon in 1973 – the same year a student uprising brought down a military junta after over a decade in power.

The piece extolls the self-sacrificial revolutionary zeal with a touch of Buddhist belief in reincarnation, and remains a popular protest song throughout the years, including a rally on Tuesday night at Mahidol University.

“Phuea Muan Chon” (For the People)

If I was born as a bird, flying overhead
I would fly far, far away
I’d ask to be a dove
To lead the people to freedom

If I was born as a cloud on the mountains
I would bring cool shade and peace to the fields
If I was born as grains of sand
I’d give my body to the people
Give my life for the suffering people
I’d give myself up, no matter how many deaths I die

Another protest song written by the same band, called Ruk Nong (“Love You”), was also used in Mahidol University rally. The song tells a story of a bird flying to seek freedom.

“Ruk Nong” (Love You)

Oh little bird, flying over from the land of indigo seas
Loneliness tramples and tortures
Against harsh winds with challenging strength to the far-off goal
Just seeing your face each day, I brim with happiness like flowers
(*) Flowers peeking petals open, blooming in my heart
May the fragrance be everlasting, not fall from our hearts
I will give you my love from my loyal heart, my life is yours to safeguard
Goodwill save us in both sleep and wake

Of course, getting a group of students from the same university in one place is a chance for showing a communal spirit. At the Chiang Mai University protests Tuesday, students sang their eponymous university song written by the late ‘national artist’ Eua Sunthornsanan.

Additional reporting Teeranai Charuvastra

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