The October 1976 coup set a precedent for the military coup three decades later, according to academics speaking at a seminar yesterday marking the 36th anniversary of the Oct 6 massacre.
IN MEMORY: Flowers are laid at the Sculpture Park at Thammasat University’s Tha Prachan campus which commemorates the students killed in the uprising of Oct 6, 1976.
Sutachai Yimprasert, a historian at Chulalongkorn University, said Adm Sa-ngad Chaloryu was a "reluctant" coup leader.
Mr Sutachai, a student at Thammasat University at the time, said the Oct 6 massacre came as authorities cracked down on protesters calling for the resignation of former dictator Field Marshall Thanom Kittikachorn.
Officially, 42 deaths and 145 injuries resulted from the crackdown.
But during the massacre, which occurred on the campus of Thammasat University and at nearby Sanam Luang, pitting right-wing paramilitary groups against the students, there were 3,094 protesters arrested and charged.
Thousands fled Bangkok in the wake of the crackdown to join the Communist Party of Thailand in the jungle.
"The Oct 6, 1976 coup was a precedent for the Sept 19, 2006 coup in the sense that the military did not really want to stage the coup," Mr Sutachai said yesterday at the commemorative seminar at Thammasat University.
The Sept 19, 2006 coup against the Thaksin Shinawatra government was led by Army chief Sonthi Boonyaratglin, who shortly afterwards named Surayud Chulanont, another former Army chief and at the time a privy counsellor, as prime minister of an interim government.
But the coup, while peaceful, has continued to be a source of major divisions among Thai political groups and red shirt supporters of Thaksin and the current Yingluck Shinawatra government.
Mr Sutachai condemned the violence that occurred in 2010, when the armed forces clashed with red shirt groups rallying against the then-Abhisit Vejjajiva government.
"Violence against citizens has taken place again and again, in both 1976 and 2010," he said.
Panitan Preuksakasemsuk, a Thammasat University law student and son of a lese majeste defendant, said history could only be revealed under a true democracy.
Mr Panitan said the move towards greater openness and democracy was inevitable, adding that a peaceful transition is needed and that the basic rights of all citizens must be preserved.
Vipar Daomanee, a leader of the October Network group, said outside of the annual commemoration activities for the Oct 6 massacre, not one political party, including those supported by Thaksin, had ever stepped forward to offer an apology or financial compensation for those affected by the violence in 1976.
Mr Sutachai suggested that the person who should apologise for the bloody events was former premier Tanin Kraivixien.
Prasit Tinarak, a third-year student at Thammasat University during the massacre, said he believed there is more openness today in discussing the role of the monarchy in politics.
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- Writer: Achara Ashayagachat