Activist Urges Textbooks To Include 'Oct 6 Massacre'

The lynching and beating of a student outside Thammasat University which has become the iconic image of October 6 Massacre

(7 October) A prominent activist has called for the inclusion of the brutal 1976 crackdown on student activists in school textbooks in order to teach the younger generation of Thais about one of the darkest episodes of Thailand′s political history.

Mr. Jaran Dittapichai was speaking after a memorial service, which Mr. Jaran along with other activists ad helped organise, held at Thammasat University to commemorate the 37th anniversary of the crackdown.

Dubbed the ?October 6 Massacre?, the incident saw right-wing militias and heavily-armed police force laying siege and later storming into Thammasat University where thousands of students were rallying for an overnight political protest.

The students, branded as Communists or North Vietnamese by the attackers, were accused of plotting to overthrow the monarchy. Official sources listed 46 deaths in the attacks; many suffered gunshot wounds while some others were hanged or burned alive by cheering mobs just outside the university. 

It proved to be an end to the triumph of the student activists who had led the ouster of military dictators in October 1973. A military coup followed the massacre at Thammasat University on 6 October 1976, and the subsequent government effectively reversed the political freedom that had blossomed in the country for three years.
 
Mr. Jaran, who was one of the leading student activists in the 1970s, said the October 6 Massacre shows how "Thai democracy is always crushed under the boots whenever it has signs of flourishing. That is why it is not going anywhere up to this day".

He lamented that it is difficult for the lessons from October 14 Uprising and October 6 Massacre to be learned by the public, as Thailand has not yet concluded or studied the incidents in serious ways.

"Many people don?t even know what both incidents are," said Mr. Jaran, "I believe many people under 40 don?t know about it. They even confuse the two events, merging them together as 16 October".
The activist said he will submit a letter to the Ministry of Education, demanding that the history of political violence be included in school textbooks, such as the uprising in 1973, the student massacre in 1976, the ?Black May? of 1992 – in which the military cracked down on pro-democracy protesters – and the Redshirts protests of 2010.

"Textbooks on Thai history say very little about 14 October and 6 October," said Mr. Jaran, adding that the teaching of these incidents in history classes would help Thailand learn about the lessons of its disastrous past.

Earlier in the day, flowers and wreaths were laid down, and poems and eulogies to the dead read, at the monument of the October 6 Massacre, which is situated at the eastern gate of Thammasat University.

Speaking during the memorial service, Mr. Wat Wanlayangoon, a former student activist who was active during the turbulent years of 1973-1976, expressed his view that "the only one thing that has never changed" since October 1976 is the prevailing dictatorship in Thailand which continued to kill its own citizens.

He cited the Redshirts protests in 2010, which was ended by a prolonged military operation, as an example.

"The victory that the students and the people achieved on 14 October 1973 was in fact a tiny victory, and the freedom they had won was short-lived," Mr. Wat said, "The structure of political power is far from a complete democracy".

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