Remembering 1976: After the massacre II

6 10 2022

This is the third publication we are posting as a way of recalling the terrible events of 6 October 1976, focused on Thammasat University.

It is the second of two publications from the period that assess the immediate political outcomes of the massacre.

European Co-ordinating Committee for Solidarity with the Thai People (c1978) Political Repression in Thailand is an activist pamphlet. Its table of contents is:

  • Thailand – Facts and Figures
  • Chronology of Events in Thailand 1932-1970
  • Politics and Violence in Thailand
  • Political Detention in Thailand
  • Suppression of Trade Unions in Thailand
  • Government Atrocities in Rural Areas

A list of resources and contacts at the time is also included.

 





Remembering 1976: After the massacre I

5 10 2022

The second publication we are posting as a way of recalling the terrible events of 6 October 1976, we provide the first of two publications from the period that assess the immediate political outcomes of the massacre. The book is Andrew Turton, Jonathan Fast and Malcolm Caldwell eds (1978) Thailand Roots of Conflict.

The book’s table of contents is:

  • Thailand and Imperialist Strategy in the 1980s by Malcolm Caldwell
  • The Socio-Economic Formation of Modern Thailand by David Elliott
  • ‘Cycles’ of Class Struggle in Thailand by Peter F. Bell
  • Causes and Consequences of the October ’76 Coup by Marian Mallet (Kraisak Choonhavan)
  • The Current Situation in the Thai Countryside by Andrew Turton
  • History and Policy of the Communist Party of Thailand by Patrice de Beer
  • Appendix 1: A brief introduction to the history of the Communist Party of Thailand (1942-1977)
  • Appendix 2: Life in the Thai liberated zones by Chontira Satayawatana
  • Appendix 3: Statement in commemoration of the 35th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of Thailand by Mitr Samanand, First Secretary-General of the CPT
  • Appendix 4: Interview with the President of the northern region, Peasants Federation of Thailand — September 1976
  • Appendix 5: The war in southern Thailand by Ruang Kao

 





Remembering 1976: Prelude

4 10 2022

This year, in remembering the state and rightist-royalist massacre of students at Thammasat University, and the associated political repression both before and after the events at Thammasat, PPT is posting some writing from the period.

The first is: Piansiri Ekniyom and G.R. Peterson (1974) Participation: A Constitutional History of Student Involvement. It is profusely illustrated and its contents are:

  • Historical Background of Thai Politics 1932-1973
  • An Account of the Thai Student Movement
  • A Record of the October Incidents
  • Communiques of the Government
  • Resignation Speech of Thanom Kitikachorn
  • Speech of His Majesty the King
  • Speech of Prime Minister Sanya
  • Supreme Headquarters Communique
  • The Months After
  • A Play Without a Rehearsal by Achaan Wittaya Wijithanarak
  • A Chronological Record of Significant Events in Thai Politics
  • A Summary of Thai Constitutional History




Monarchy propaganda as fake news

25 01 2022

The Bangkok Post has published palace propaganda. We know they have little choice in the matter, but we also guess the tycoons who run the paper also love this kind of fake news.

As we write this post, the story has become inaccessible. It remains a searchable story at the Post, and might come back, but there’s also an excerpt here.

With King Vajiralongkorn turning 70 later this year, the military is busy not just crushing opposition to the monarch and regime, but is promoting him and link between monarchy and military.

Reminiscent of elements of then Army commander Gen Apirat Kongsompong’s royalist rant in 2019, the Post article promotes the martial monarch.

It reports that the Royal Thai Army “will upgrade Ban Mak Khaeng Thed Phrakiat Park in Loei,” building a “sculpture of the King, and open[ing] a museum to portray the historical moment when the King, who was Crown Prince at the time, fought alongside troops against communist rebels in Ban Mak Khaeng…”.

Such a propaganda effort promotes monarch, monarchy, military and the bond between monarch and military.

The park was first constructed “by the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) of Loei to mark the battlefield in which [Vajiralongkorn]… joined soldiers in fighting Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) insurgents in tambon Kok Sathon of Dan Sai district” in 1976.

As the Post story notes, the “1970s was the height of the Cold War, when communist revolutions toppled governments and monarchies in Laos and Cambodia and when relations between the Thai monarchy and military were reshaped by dramatic and rapid shifts in domestic politics.” The best example of that relationship was the royalist massacre of students on 6 October 1976.

Vajiralongkorn had hurriedly returned from counterinsurgency training in Australia to be there for the massacre and he took up arms with the military to fight the battle against those identified as opponents of the military and monarchy.

The Post reports that: “On Nov 5, 1976, King Rama X, who was [a] … captain at that time, received a direct order from … King Bhumibol Adulyadej … to contain the situation [the anti-CPT fight in Loei].”

A myth in training

Lt Gen Chanvit Attatheerapong, director of the Army Tourism Promotion Agency – who knew there was such a thing – declared: “As a soldier, when the king had fought alongside army troops, it was a moment of incomparable rejoicing for us soldiers. And he [the king] is courageous…”.

It is important to both king and military to create stories of the king-as-soldier in a period when the ruling elite is reliant on  the military-backed regime.

The propaganda is myth-making as “villagers, police and soldiers who witnessed the events tell the magnificent story of the bravery of … the King.” From a soldier taking part in a fire fight, the then crown prince is re-made as a hero:

Pol Lt Suvin Viriyawat, a 69-year-old retired police officer, said the CTP insurgents had nearly managed to surround and cut off a police stronghold….

However, they never thought His Majesty the King would arrive to support his troops. Due to the mountainous area, the chopper could not land, so His Majesty the King suddenly hopped down with his seven royal guards onto the heated battlefield. “His Majesty the King said he was just a soldier, no need to be formal, just carry out our duties. He was so kind to us and ate alongside us too,” said Pol Lt Suvin.

“If His Majesty didn’t show up, around 20 survivors of the 48 might not be alive as we were surrounded with limited supplies for eight days. It was like we were drowning and His Majesty pulled us up. We survived because of him,” he said.

With such embellished stories, ISOC and the Army want to display the martial king, the brave soldiers and the people as one. Such propaganda is believed to be critical for the maintenance of the ruling elite. And, it blots out the critical role played by royals and royalists in the murder of civilians.





Military media

11 10 2021

A chilling report at Prachatai suggests that in October 2021 the military’s media is revamping itself for ultra-royalist, extreme rightist agitation, much as it did in 1975-76.

The military’s TV Channel 5 is hiring “four ultra-royalist hosts from Top News … [to] host 7 hours a day … from 3 January 2022.”

The hosts, Kanok Ratwongsakul, Teera Tanyapaibul, Santisuk Marongsri, and Sathaporn Kuasakul, claim they will be “delivering impartial and accurate reports.” That seems unlikely.

Channel 5 or the Royal Thai Army Radio and Television Station is a free-to-air television network owned by the Royal Thai Army, and was launched on 25 January 1958. It is not a particularly popular broadcaster, ranking about 18th in ratings, and one motivation for this rightist move is to increase the broadcaster’s popularity. Becoming bellicosely ultra-royalist is seen as a way to do this.

Lt Gen Rangsi Kitiyanasap, Managing Director of Channel 5, says that the new programming “will provide information that will end the public division and help Thailand out of the economic and health crisis caused by the spread of Covid-19…”. That is code for supporting regime and monarchy.

Lt Gen Rangsi babbled, channeling Fox News:

The goal of presenting news on Channel 5 will emphasize news which is the truth in all aspects, with in-depth detail, and importantly, which does not create division in society, and does not add fuel, but pulls firewood out of the fire. We will be a mainstream media outlet which will not judge who is wrong or right, but presents comprehensive information and lets the people decide….

The general claimed the new contract was with “GMC, with Chaiwat Techapaitoon as Chair of the Executive Board, [and] was a different legal entity from Top News Digital Media Co Ltd, which has Sonthiyan Chuenruthainaitham as its founder.” As Prachatai explains: “Sonthiyan was a right-wing activist and a media entrepreneur whose support helped lead to the killing of red shirt protesters in 2010, the military coup in 2014, and the violent crackdowns on pro-democracy protesters in 2020-2021.”

Military and military-backed media were notorious in the 1970s for their agitation against students and democracy advocates. Sound familiar? Back then, that media promoted the forces who assassinated activists and massacred students at Thammasat University.





1976 in the news

7 10 2021

The Bangkok Post reported on the memorial rally, but little more. On that memorial event it noted:

Little has changed in the 45 years since students and activists were massacred by the military and rightwing radicals at Thammasat University….

This point was made by speakers when activists and members of the victims’ families gathered on Wednesday at the memorial at Thammasat University….

The Thalufah group said in a statement posted on its Facebook page that they would never forget the events of Oct 6 1976, and said violent means were unacceptable nowdays.

Red-shirt leader Nattawut Saikuar said students continued to fight for democracy 45 years later, with the country still divided with no political solution to the problem.

Despite the efforts of the state and especially the bureaucracy, military and monarchy, the events of 1976 have never been forgotten. The state’s success has been in preventing any meaningful investigation, covering up the events, and in providing impunity for the murderers who stalked the students at Thammasat and for several years after. Yet another effort is being made to rectify this, although the International Criminal Court is a high hurdle.

Kudos to Thai Examiner for its several reports on 6 October 1976. It did much better than most of the mainstream media. We are especially grateful for their interview with Sutham Saengprathum who was Secretary-General of the National Student Center of Thailand in 1976. As we recall it – correct us if our collective memory is faulty – Sutham was jailed as a political prisoner for a long period, and there was an international campaign for his release.

We especially like hearing from other students of the period as much of the “heavy lifting” on 1976 has been done in English by Thongchai Winichakul. See recent efforts here and here. Without other voices in English accounts, 1976 risks becoming Thongchai’s 1976. His major contribution is Moments of Silence: The Unforgetting of the October 6, 1976, Massacre in Bangkok, available from Library Genesis.

 





Remembering the 1976 massacre VI

6 10 2021

Be sure to visit the site documenting 1976.

PPT is reproducing some of the posts we have had in the past about the 6 October 1976 massacre. Here’s the final post from the past, from 2016:

Making a cruel point

student-6oct1The 6 October 1976 massacre was one of the Thai military’s periodic interventions in politics that saw many citizens murdered and arrested.

While the numbers killed total in the 40s for official counts, but perhaps 10 times this in reality.

This massacre was particularly brutal, with civilians being raped, burned alive, lynched, dismembered and tortured. It was conducted by police, military and rightist and royalist gangs that owed allegiance to the palace.

The ruling class cheered the end of a turbulent democracy that they had been unable to totally control.

The monarchy, fearful of communism, unions, students and socialists, thanked those who supported it by murdering and imprisoning those it identified as enemies.

The king spoke to his “subjects” about their duties to support his murderous regime – he had had his man Thanin Kraivixien, appointed premier. This event and the monarchy’s central role was defining of a brief reign of terror under Thanin’s regime, followed by a long period of military and military-backed governments, lasting through until 1988.6-october-1976

The full speech by the then king is reproduced in Prachatai and we reproduce it here, because of its callous support for authoritarianism and rejection of democratic politics.

The speech doesn’t mention these things directly, but everyone knew that the king was supporting those who massacred political opponents:

People of Thailand, thank you for expressing your kindness and cordiality to me, the Queen and all of our children. Thank you for your cooperation and support in all our activities which has given us much encouragement.

The Thai people have clearly expressed their wishes. With this, there is a common understanding and there is an opportunity to work together in order to fulfil our aspirations. Although there may be obstacles or challenges along the way, we can overcome them as long as we sincerely cooperate with one another. However, we should also understand that the country’s overall situation is not so promising.

I strongly wish that all of us could understand and see the reality of the situation in our country.

6-oct-1976Currently our country needs to be improved and developed to the highest level of efficiency so that we can fully optimise the use of resources on our land, as well as wholly benefit from the labour force and wisdom of all Thais. We must utilise them in order to swiftly advance our country and bring about prosperity in all dimensions.

For this purpose, we must urgently execute many development projects and implement them quickly and fruitfully. We cannot delay them for any reason otherwise we will lose out on any potential benefits and in this case it will be damaging.

We can contribute by being strongly determined to uphold the nation’s interest, forego personal interests and refrain from unnecessary disputes.

Those who hold duties and responsibilities must tend to them and successfully fulfil them to the best of their potential and with honesty, with compassion, compromise and goodwill. Our collective work will soon lead to success and a lasting development for our nation.beating_corpse-6-october_1976

I would like to invite the blessings of the Triple Gems and all things sacred to the Thai people to protect you all from danger and misfortune and to bestow upon you good health, inspiration, wisdom and unity, so that you can perform your duties in order to move our country forward while also maintaining our sovereignty and peace for the sake of our well-being and prosperity. I wish you all happiness and success in your endeavours throughout the New Year.

Why is this of interest now? Because the current royalist military junta has decided that every Thai must be reminded of its power for tyranny and repression, in the name of the monarchy. It has chosen to do this with a 9-minute anthem that all Thais will have to listen to and respect into the future. It is also a threat.

 





Remembering the 1976 massacre V

5 10 2021

PPT is reproducing some of the posts we have had in the past about the 6 October 1976 massacre.

Of course, as Thai Enquirer points out, the current government and the military want people to forget the events of 6 October. This regime is pathetic, trying to “use the Covid outbreak as an excuse to stop the October 6 Massacre remembrance ceremony.” Pathetic and evil. It has been “pressuring the university [Thammasat] to act to stop the ceremony.”

The university’s action, to block access to the monument that commemorates the event, has been roundly criticized by many people on social media and offline. It is a pathetic cowering for an institution whose students were massacred by right wing actors on October 6, 1976.

Here’s the fifth of our posts, from 2011:

Remembering 6 October 1976

PPT joins with others in remembering the terrible events of 6 October 1976.

An AP photo

We have mentioned this before: The BBC has a program in its Witness series on the October 1976 events in Thailand, with  archival audio footage of reporting from the time and Ajarn Puey Ungpakorn, and a present-day interview with Ajarn Thongchai Winichakul. Read Puey by following the links here.

PPT has Ajarn Puey’s famous “letter” that he wrote following the 1976 military coup and published as a pamphlet by The Union of Democratic Thais in the U.S. Our post from last year deserves attention again.

Prachatai has published a series of gruesome new photos from the horrific events.





Remembering the 1976 massacre IV

5 10 2021

PPT is reproducing some of the posts we have had in the past about the 6 October 1976 massacre. Here’s the fourth, from 2015:

On 6 October 1976

The military massacre of 6 October 1976 should never be forgotten for its brutality in “protecting” the monarchy and using royalist gangs to murder.

Thai Rath Newspaper

Thai Rath Newspaper, from 2Bangkok.com

This picture is of a Thai Rath front page of events in Bangkok on 6 October 1976.

Readers are reminded of articles about this tragic event that we have on our site with permission from Critical Asian Studies. These articles are from the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars Special Supplement on “October 1976: The Coup in Thailand” as it appeared in Volume 9, Number 3, July-September 1977:

  • Cover, contents and introduction  to the Supplement by Jayne Werner (bcas_9-3-1977_cover_intro)
  • Puey Ungphakorn, “Violence and the Military Coup in Thailand” with an Introduction by David Millikin (bcas_9-3-1977_puey)
  • Ben Anderson, “Withdrawal Symptoms: Social and Cultural Aspects of the October 6 Coup” (bcas_9-3-1977_anderson)
  • E. Thadeus Flood, “The Vietnamese refugees in Thailand: Minority Manipulation in Counterinsurgency” (bcas_9-3-1977_flood)
  • Carl A. Trocki, “Boonsanong Punyodyana: Thai Socialist and Scholar, 1936-1976″ including an interview with Boonsanong from the Far Eastern Economic Review (bcas_9-3-1977_trocki)

Some of these links probably still work:

student-6oct1

 

Prachatai on photos of 6 October

The Guardian on a brutal Thai coup

Wikipedia on 6 October massacre

Pokpong Lawansiri on demystifying and remembering

Puey Ungpakorn on 6 October (opens a PDF)





Remembering the 1976 massacre III

5 10 2021

PPT is reproducing some of the posts we have had in the past about the 6 October 1976 massacre. Here’s the third, from 2012:

Remembering the 6 October royalist massacre

2012

As we have pointed out several times in recent weeks, the royalist state is “protected” by the military and ultra-royalists. This task requires that these groups – most especially the military – repress and kill citizens seen as dissidents or an opposition.

In 1976, this protection of the monarchy saw murders in the monarchy’s name. The most dramatic and horrible event was the royalist-inspired attack on people – mostly students – damned as “disloyal.” This massacre at Thammasat University, probably killed more people than the dark events of April and May 2010, yet there has never been any state investigation nor anyone sent to trial. Impunity was the rule because the state’s troops and rightist gangs were doing the work of the royalist state. The main perpetrators of the massacre are claimed to be the Border Patrol Police who trained many of the rightist gangs in the name of the monarchy and with considerable U.S. funding. The BPP was and remains close to the royal family.

The regime that was put in place following the massacre and a coup was, like 2006, headed by a palace favorite. Thanin Kraivixien remains a Privy Counselor even today, considered “respected” because of that. Yet the fact is that his administration was one of the most right-wing, repressive and brutal regimes. Mercifully, after just a year, he was thrown out by another coup, led by General Kriangsak Chomanan, who was never forgiven by the palace for throwing out the its prime minister. Of course, this led to Kriangsak’s ouster, arranged to replace him with General Prem Tinsulanond, another palace favorite, who remains president of the Privy Council today. Just days after the bloodshed, the crown prince distributed awards to paramilitary personnel involved.

In other words, the massacre at Thammasat University was intimately linked to palace political machinations. Neither the palace nor the military has been far from the politics of the period since, and the massacres of Bangkok protesters seen in 1992 and 2010.

A major event was organized to remember this 1976 event. It is in Thai and can be found here. Prachatati released new pictures from the period last year, and the BBC has a 10-minute documentary worth accessing. So is Puey Ungpakorn’s account of the events around 6 October.








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