Victims of the Oct 14, 1973, uprising have once again voiced their plea for the government to give them a final compensation payment as the event's 39th anniversary approaches.
The Association of Relatives and Survivors of 14 October 1973 has been wrangling with the authorities for almost seven years over their demand for a one-off payment of 1.2 million baht to its members who are now all elderly citizens.
"There have been flip-flops in the bureaucracy as well as insincerity from politicians," said Prawais Em-amorn, a core member of the association.
"The most recent victims [of state violence] have received compensation but their predecessors are still waiting for mercy from the government."
Mr Prawais, 59, was referring to the payouts of up to 7.5 million baht made by the Yingluck Shinawatra administration to red-shirt and yellow-shirt protesters as well as victims of the violence in the deep South.
After the Oct 14 uprising, which left 77 dead and hundreds injured, the government led by Sanya Dharmasak set up a 30-million-baht fund managed by the Foundation for the October Victims to provide monthly support of 400 baht to relatives of the dead or injured.
The fund was exhausted and eventually closed down 30 years later in 2004.
In March 2006, the government of Thaksin Shinawatra made a pact with the Oct 14 survivors and relatives to pay up to 3 million baht to each survivor and half a million to relatives of victims.
But even this sum was not enough in the end, they said.
"We were asked to sign papers forfeiting the right to demand compensation in the future," Mr Prawais said.
"But the survivors and relatives, including victims' parents, have led a difficult life. So we are pleading with the government to consider giving a final lump-sum payment to them on humanitarian grounds."
After much discussion, the Abhisit government agreed to pay the association's members 7,000 baht a month until death. However, the ageing and ailing members would rather settle for a final one-off payout.
"Politicians are just preaching about democracy without really caring about the people who made real sacrifices and were affected by the fight for democracy," said Mr Prawais, who still has a big scar on his left thigh from M16 bullet wounds from 1973, a legacy of when the military regime of the time opened fire on unarmed pro-democracy protesters.
During the past few years, 14 members of the association have died. Its membership is now down to 52.
"We would like to live our final days with some dignity without getting into debt or becoming a burden on our descendants," said Mr Prawais.
Ms Yingluck has turned down the request for the lump-sum payment and has stood by the monthly subsistence allowance deal.
Lamied Boonmark, 67, wife of Jira Boonmark, a student from the National Institute of Development Administration who was killed on Ratchadamnoen Avenue during the 1973 demonstrations, said the association is not begging for money from the government. It is just asking for humanitarian support for the final days of its members, he said.
Since 2003, parliament has recognised Oct 14 as Democracy Day, but those who struggled then have been abandoned by the generations who have followed in their footsteps, Ms Lamied said.
Mr Prawais has urged members of the cabinet, whom he believes indirectly benefited from the landmark incident, to show up during the event's 39th anniversary commemoration on Sunday to see with their own eyes how relatives of the so-called "heroes" and "heroines" live their modest and difficult lives.
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- Writer: Achara Ashayagachat