Writer and former Senator Thommayanti dies at 85

Writer and former senator Wimon Chiamcharoen, best known under her pen name Thommayanti, passed away yesterday (13 September) at the age of 85.

Wimon Chiamcharoen (Picture from Thai Writer Association)

One of Thailand’s most popular writers, Wimon was known for her novels, which were written under 6 pen names and often contained nationalistic themes. She was also very prolific, having written 69 novels under her pen name Thommayanti alone.

The romance novel Khu Kam, a love story between a Thai woman and a Japanese soldier during the Second World War, is one of her best-known works and has been adapted into films, television series, and a stage musical. The historical fantasy novel Thawipop, in which a woman from the 20th century time travels to Siam during the reign of King Chulalongkorn, has also been repeatedly adapted as films, television series, a stage play, and a stage musical. In 2012, she was named a National Artist in literature.

There has also been speculation about similarities between her novel Phitsawat and Marie Corelli’s 1897 novel Ziska, due to the similar plot elements and themes.  

Wimon was also a controversial figure for her role in the lead-up to the 6 October 1976 Thammasat University Massacre. She was a leader of the Housewife Society founded in 1976, which consisted of the wives of bureaucrats and military officers. The Housewife Society was vocal in their attacks on the student movement, accusing them of destroying Thailand’s good relationship with the US. The group held a protest against the students on 17 May 1976.

She also spoke on the military’s Yan Kro (“armoured car”) radio network, a right-wing radio channel which was instrumental in fomenting attacks against the students, accusing them of being communists, and coordinating the attacks on the students. Wimon often attacked the student movement and the communist ideology in her talks, even calling for the US government to continue running an air force base and radar station in Thailand. A voice clip reported to be one of Wimon’s talks on the Yan Kro Radio was immediately shared on social media following her death. 

Following the Thammasat University massacre, Wimon was appointed to the National Reform Council and in 1977, to the National Legislative Council. According to the Documentation of Oct 6 project, Wimon strongly opposed a bill granting amnesty to students facing charges following the Thammasat University Massacre. At a National Legislative Council meeting on 15 September 1978, Wimon reportedly spoke during the session against the bill before walking out after the bill passed first reading.   

In 1979, she was elected as a senator, before being dismissed from office in 1986 after the Supreme Court found her guilty of adultery, while her husband filed for divorce. Nevertheless, she was awarded with the title Khunying in 2005 by King Bhumibol.  

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