Three prominent universities in Thailand will host commemorative events for the 6 October Massacre to remind society about the culture of impunity, political violence and the role of student activists in Thai politics.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Thailand’s 1976 massacre, also known as the 6 October. The event occurred at Thammasat University where more than a hundred student activists were killed by military and paramilitary forces and over 3,000 were arrested for allegedly being communists and threats to Thailand’s monarchy.
The massacre led to the military coup d’état in the evening which brought the military rule to Thai politics, according to the famous historian Benedict Anderson. The majority of mainstream Thai history textbooks attempt to delete the event or justify the killings.
This year, however, a variety of events to commemorate the massacre will be held in order to make sure the bloody massacre is never forgotten. Since this year marks the fourth decade after the incident, commemorative events are set to be more energetic and diverse than those in previous years.
6 October 1976 (Photo courtesy of Neal Ulevich)
Thammasat University: arts, films and academic talks
As the university where the bloody massacre took place, Thammasat University (Tha Phra Chan campus) will host a big three-day event. The event title is “40 Years after the 6th October Massacre, is it all forgotten: for the dead, the living and for the future of our society” and will be held between 6 and 8 October.
Event activities will vary from art performances, to folk music, movie critic sessions and academic discussions. One interesting discussion will be “Voice from Silence”, which comprises speakers who have lost family members from Thailand’s political violence. This panel will be held on 6 October.
Another main activity will be a screening of the movie “Respectfully Yours”, a film made exclusively for this event. It is a story about the memories and traumas of the massacre’s victims and Thailand’s culture of impunity. The film will be played every day of the event together with other interesting movies and documentaries such as 40 Years of Silence, Democracy After Death and Silence-Memories.
Academic discussions of the event will definitely be worth listening to. Six topics and six prominent speakers will be present at Thammasat on 8 October under the theme “Conflict and Culture of Impunity in Thai Society.”
Here are some of the discussion topics: “Class Struggle and Politics of Royalist Mass” presented by Kasian Tejapira, “Same Violations but New Concealment of Truth” presented by Tyrell Haberkorn, “Impunity License: Independent Organizations and 2010 Political Crackdown” presented by Puangthong Pawakapan, and “Experiment on Thai Rule of Law, Impunity Privilege and Misunderstanding of Human Rights in Thai society” presented by Thongchai Winichakul.
Chulalongkorn University: Young gen, TED Talk and Joshua Wong
Chulalongkorn University (CU) has been known as Thailand’s most conservative and elitist university. It has never hosted a big event to remember the October Event. But this year, a big event titled “The 40 Years of 6 Oct. The New Generation Commemoration” will be hosted on 6 October.
Rather than hosting a typical talk-based lecture or panel, CU has chosen an alternative TED Talk format. Speakers of the event are mostly from younger generations or are celebrities actively engaged in political and social issues such as Warisa Sukkumnoed, secretary-general of Education for Liberation of Siam; Jessada Denduangboripant, an anti-superstition scientist; and Sarawut Hengsawad, a hipster writer.
The exclusive speaker of this event is Joshua Wong, the key leader of the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong, who will give a speech titled “Politics of New Generations”.
Three days in a row before the event, there will be movie critic sessions. Three different movies related to the 6 October Event will be played at Room 107 in the Samranratborirak Building, Faculty of Political Science in the evening. The three movies are Time in the Bottle, October Sonata and 14 October: War of People.
The spearhead of this event is Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, a freshman from the Faculty of Political Science where the event will be hosted. He told Prachatai that many of the students massacred in the 6 October Event were CU students but people usually remember only Thammasat students as victims of the event. He wants to remind society that CU students also played a role in the historical event.
He also said that he chose the TED Talk format because the traditional seminar form is boring.
“When 6 October was celebrated five years ago, I participated [in organising commemorative events]. [The events] were interesting, they had drama and there were many people. But what was interesting at that time has now become boring. Activism right now in Thailand is quite boring,” said Netiwit. “We won’t just talk about the past or the present. We will talk about the future.”
Further information can be found at the Facebook page, 6 Oct CU
Kasetsart University: photo exhibition and student activists
If you are interested in the roles of student activists in Thai politics, both in the present and the past, Kasetsart University is your option. Their commemorative event is titled “You Wrote, You Erased But We Remember: The 6 October Through Memories of Kasetsart People.”
Activities in the event are mainly academic discussions and experience-sharing from student activists. The discussions include various topics such as Sociology and Anthropology of Memory in the 6 October Event, the 6 October’s Implications for Current Student Movement, KU Student Union on the 6 October, and the 6 October in Traditional Textbooks.
The speakers of this event are both academics and current student activists from KU. There will also be an exhibition “The 6 October: Erase, Fade and Forget” displaying photos taken from the bloody massacre.
The event will be held on 5 October.