In a bleak way of looking at things, the 36th anniversary of the October 14th bloodbath in 1973 was earlier commemorated with another bloodshed, the violent crackdown on the People’s Alliance for Democracy rally on October 7, 2008.
The only difference is that the soldiers were the ones doing the attacking in the former tragedy, but for October 2008, under the orders from politicians, it was the police who were the attackers. The landmark fight on October 14 1973 for democracy should have built a strong foundation for the Thai democracy but 36 years later Thai democracy is still on running on a trial-and-error basis with numerous tearing ups and rewritings of constitution.
Despite the fact that democracy replaced absolute monarchy on 24 June 1932, so far the real evolution of democracy in Thailand seems to have begun not long ago.
After two tenures of General Prem Tinsulanonda from 1980 to 1988 or the so-called semi-democracy age ended, came the reign of General Chartchai Chunhawan who was then elected to the office. His tenure marked a new beginning for Thailand, as he, unlike two former PMs Kukrit Pramote and Senee Pramote, was not under the shadow of the army. However, Chartchai’s tenure came to an end due to widespread corruption within his administration and the power was returned to the army once again.
After October 14th incident, there were three coups and one overthrowing of a dictatorship government. Firstly, October 6 1976 represented a historical protest by students to refuse to welcome General Thanom Kittikajorn back to the country as a monk. He was known as ‘the’ tyrant back then.
The mass protest of the Black May incident in 1992 is a fight against the National Peace Keeping Council which tried to keep alive the power of a group behind another coup which took place earlier on February 23, 1991.
History repeated itself again in the 2006 coup on September 19 which ousted Thaksin. The coup-makers cited unprecedented scale of corruption as the necessary reason for the coup. However, the people’s movement which took place after this coup was met with much objection compared to other previous movements.
October 14, October 6 and October 7 aren’t just dates to remember those who lost their lives during the three incidents but they represent the unfazed belief and conviction the Thai people have in democracy. However, people who rise to power through democracy that so many people have fought for have perpetuated the vicious cycle that seems to necessitate one military coup after another.
Should we remember the three October incidents with hope or grief? You decide.
Kom Chad Luek, Page 4, October 7
Rewritten, edited for length and clarity by Pornchai Sereemongkonpol