Lessons learned from the October uprising

Sutham Sangprathum shares his thoughts about the Oct 14, 1973, uprising with Prachathipatai newspaper. (Photos: Thana Boonlert)

When the Oct 14, 1973, uprising culminated in the collapse of the military dictatorship, Sutham Sangprathum, the former deputy interior minister who joined the protests at the age of 19, felt that it was the great victory for people, but gradually learned that it had not challenged the status quo.

"The movement came to an end on Oct 6, 1976. After 48 years, students are still the dummy shareholders. In the Oct 14, 1973, uprising they brought about change, but authorities used the opportunity to remove an old faction," Sutham told the Bangkok Post by phone.

Born on Oct 26, 1953, he took part in two historic events the same month. After joining the protest on Oct 14, 1973, he became the secretary of the National Student Center of Thailand during the Oct 6, 1976, massacre.

Sutham said many stakeholders, including the United States, defined Thai politics. After Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat came to power in a coup in 1957, the US developed Thailand into an anti-communist base, supported the military, and set up infrastructure for development.

"People owned very small shares. In the end, the major shareholder regained control up until now," he said.

Sutham said, however, the legacy of the Oct 14 uprising includes freedom of expression. After that, Thailand saw an unprecedented outpouring of books and street protests.

"This is the legacy of Oct 14. I believe that its spirit still has a respectable place in history," he said.

The near-68-year-old politician remains hopeful that the new generation will be a powerful force now that students are fighting relentlessly. With the benefit of hindsight, the Oct 14 uprising resulted in the removal of "three tiles" (tyrants who went into exile) without affecting the building's structure.

"People come and go. They are like small trees that are always uprooted. When new roads appear, tanks crush them and take over the country. However, young people are more insightful. They don't beat around the bush like my generation. [However,] I hope for a peaceful transition to democracy," he said.

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