A New Mandala reader in Bangkok has reported that the notorious rightist song nak phaen din (หนักแผ่นดิน) “has been playing frequently as a ditty on Army radio for the past week or so”. This is a virultently anti-communist song from the 1970s that was played repeatedly in the lead-up to the massacre of students at Thammasat University in October 1976. Ben Anderson makes reference to the song in his book, Spectre of Comparisons:
Radio stations controlled by rightists, and especially the extremist Armored Division Radio, commissioned and played incessantly violent songs such as “Nak Phaendin” (Heavy on the Earth) and “Rok Phaendin” (Scum of the Earth). Kitti Wuttho’s dictum that Buddhism endorsed the killing of communists was given wide and constant publicity. Nor, of course, was the violence merely verbal. As mentioned earlier, the spring and summer of 1976 witnessed a whole series of physical outrages. (p.171)
Thongchai also makes reference to the song in his 1996 commemoration of the 1976 massacre:
The public were first worried, then scared off by the polarizing politics and violence. They gradually turned away from both confronting forces. This deprived the left wing of popular support, a vital element for the radical student movement. Meanwhile military propaganda had dehumanized the radical students, labeling them ‘scum of the earth’ (nak phaendin), the enemy of the “Nation, Religion and the Monarchy”, or lackeys of communist aliens (Vietnam in particular). A right-wing monk asserted that killing of leftists was not a religious sin since it killed the Evil One (Mara). In retrospect, the eradication of the radicals and the return of military rule might have been inevitable. Yet, that brutality of that Wednesday morning was far beyond anybody’s anticipation.
A brief history of the song, its lyrics and a sound file are available on Thai Wikipedia. Translation of lyrics is not my strongpoint, but with some help from my friends I will have a go at the first verse:
They call themselves Thai and they look like Thais.
Living in the golden Bo tree of the King, but they have destruction in their hearts.
They regard the Thai as slaves, they look down on the Thais.
But they live off Thai wealth and enslave the Thai people.
Scum of the earth, scum of the earth, scum of the earth ….
I am sure New Mandala readers can provide a full (and better) translation of this noxious song!
My understanding is that the term “nak phaen din” (literally, heavy on the earth) derives from a Buddhist tale in which the ambitious and arrogant Phra Tewatat attempts to kill the Buddha. He is punished for his sins by being sucked into the earth (suup phaen din). Phra Tewatat is the stereotypical villain who, as one friend put it, “betrays parents, nation, religion or king.” It is not hard to see who is being cast as Phra Tewatat in the current political climate. And his followers, of course, are the scum of the earth.