Despite Thammasat University’s initial reluctance to allow any commemoration event this year, their change of mind at the midnight the night before allowed the commemoration to go ahead at the scene of the 1976 massacre.
A commemoration flag placed on the 6 October massacre memorial sculpture.
From the morning on, survivors, relatives of the deceased, political figures, civil society members and others gathered at Thammasat University’s Tha Prachan Campus to offer merit to monks and lay wreaths to remember those who died in the 1976 crackdown.
Containers, railway cars and razor wire were placed on Sanam Luang, blocking the way to the Royal Palace near to Thammasat.
Palakorn Chirasopone of the committee organizing the event said he received a Line message from the University, saying that the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation (MHESI) had allowed an event inside the University with strict public health measures.
There had earlier been conflicts between the student council, the organizing committee and the University which was denying access to the campus, citing a spread of Covid-19 as the reason.
Organizations including the Pheu Thai Party, the Move Forward Party, the Progressive Movement, the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstrations, the red shirts, labour unions, feminist activists, the Assembly of the Poor and even the Thalugaz youngsters paid tribute to the event by sending representatives or wreaths.
Kritsadang Nutcharas, a senior lawyer who survived the massacre, gave a speech saying that the ‘October Generation’ has been trying to bring the perpetrators to justice at the International Criminal Court. Although Thailand has never ratified the Rome Statute that would allow the Court to try the case, he found that there is a way to get this case to trial and he will do his best to make it happen.
Sureerat Chiwarak, mother of activist Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak who has now been in prison for almost 60 days, stepped onto the stage to receive the annual Charupong Thongsin award in Parit’s stead. The award is named after a student who was killed during the massacre.
Sureerat read a statement from Parit, saying he felt honoured to receive the award that was given to those who dedicated themselves to democracy just like Charupong.
“I regard this award as a great honour, and also a sad moment for this society, because the fact that we still have to give Charupong Thongsin awards shows that although Charupong Thongsing and comrades made the ultimate sacrifice for us over 45 years ago, this country still has people who suffer and sacrifice for democracy, people who are attacked for calling for democracy.
“Respected friends, during this award ceremony, I am still in detention for fighting for democracy. I believe that many of Charupong’s friends may have experienced the same intimidation. This may be a sacrifice of liberty for ideology. But at the same time, it is brutality on the part of the Thai state to arrest people and imprison them in a cramped jail cell just because those people think and believe differently from what the state orders.
“If we dream of a Thailand that is peaceful, free from political violence, we must come together to defend the rights and liberties of the ideas of everyone, every side, beginning with the release those who have been detained for their ideas, and those who were threatened by illegitimate power. We must also abolish all laws and all provisions that limit the freedom of expression and political movement of the people, in order to allow Thai society to progress toward justice, reconciliation and democracy,” read the statement.
Chumaporn ‘Waddao’ Taengkliang, a gender diversity activist, read a poem from ‘Sam’, a detainee on lèse majesté charges, in tribute to those who died in the massacre and the current new generation who are fighting for democracy.
Chumaporn then read another poem written by Wat Wanlayangkoon, a self-exiled writer charged with lèse majesté, which mentions Parit. She asked the participants to give a round of applause to Parit’s mother and to other political detainees who are currently in prison.