Breaking the Hegemony of Oct 6, 1976 History

Retention

History is not to be memorized but to be debated, explained and interpreted through various lenses. When monopolized, history has deprived society of having different ways to look at things. The history of the Oct. 6, 1976 massacre is no exception.

It’s been 40 years since the day in which right-wing paramilitary lynched and killed at least 46 people at Thammasat University. Some may say this can be explained as the action of a heavily propagandized ultra-royalist mob, who chose to kill in order to protect the monarchy, amidst fears of Thailand becoming a communist state and the monarchy being ousted.

Forty years on, we need more views, nuance and debate about the incident, or risk turning the arguably darkest episode of modern Thai political history into an annual ritual of wreath-laying, followed by a succession of key and low note speeches.

Whilst it must be acknowledged, the task of uncovering what truly happened needs to be opened up to voices beyond those of the so-called Oct. 6 generation. How many people were exactly hung at Sanam Luang (Royal Lawn)? Who was the mastermind of the lynching? Or was it spontaneous?

There should be attempts to record more voices from the right-wing who were on the side of the perpetrators, in order to understand why they think people committed such atrocious crimes or whether they see them as crimes at all.

One influential ultra-royalist novelist, Wimon Siripaiboon, better known by her pen name Tommayantee, gave an interview to nationweekend.com magazine back in February 2013, touching on her role in agitating the right-wing movement back then by saying:

Pravit Rojanaphruk

“Regarding Oct. 6, [1976] I say if it didn’t end up like that we would have ended up like Laos, Vietnam or Cambodia. Is that not true? It was communists back then [that we were dealing with] … I don’t care what the communists do, but regarding the King and the Thai royal family – don’t touch… They have been criticizing me for years. They said it was my fault and I said yes, my fault was to love my motherland.”

More views from the other side of the political divide should be welcomed, regardless of whether one approves of the views or not.

Instead of more or less monotonous recounts from the Oct. 6 generation, those too young to have been involved as well as those who were not yet born at the time, should try to make their own interpretation or the incident and ask themselves what they have learned from it.

Chanoknan Ruamsap, 23, co-speaker in the “New Democracy Movement” told me that the most important lesson she learnt was that although “it’s been 40 years, some still do not want to accept the truth, and they try to forget and erase this history.”

Abinya Sawatvarakorn, 24, student activist, and a Masters student at Thammasat University’s College of Interdisciplinary Studies said: “It’s a good lesson reminding us that opponents are ready to resort to violence, be it in 1973, 1976, 1992 or 2010.”

As for Parit Chiwarak, 18, a “Mattayom 6” student activist from Triam Udomsuksa School, thinks part of the people who attacked the technical students, were once on democracy’s side back in Oct. 1973. “So we have to learn to preserve the solidarity of the movement, otherwise history will repeat itself.”

Then there is Netiwit Chotipatpaisalm 20, first-year political science student and student activist at Chulalongkorn University.

“We can try to learn why people commit massacres and how they organize themselves,” said Netiwit.

As for myself, I was eight and too young, but seeing the gory pictures of lynchings, hate and senseless killings taught me that one should never fall prey to propaganda to the point of losing one’s humanity.

America has different takes of its history. Late American historian Howard Zinn, seminal to me, wrote ‘A People’s History Of The United States’, which is a much more sobering chronicle and interpretation of that nation. Thailand needs to reassess and rethink its history too, and the Oct. 6 massacre is no exception.

It’s time to try and break any hegemonic monopoly on how to remember our past, for those who control the past often dictate the future.

History should not be static but refreshed through new findings and perspectives.