Archive showcases horrors of Thammasat massacre

Archive showcases horrors of Thammasat massacre

Relatives lay flowers and wreaths at the Oct 6 memorial ground inside Thammasat University's Tha Prachan campus yesterday. Former student activists and academics set up an online archive about the Oct 6, 1976 massacre to raise awareness. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)
Relatives lay flowers and wreaths at the Oct 6 memorial ground inside Thammasat University's Tha Prachan campus yesterday. Former student activists and academics set up an online archive about the Oct 6, 1976 massacre to raise awareness. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)

Former student activists and academics have teamed up to set up an online archive on the Thammasat massacre of Oct 6, 1976 to raise awareness and ensure that the public understands and remembers the tragedy.

Chulalongkorn University Professor Puangthong Pawakapan, manager of the project, said the main purpose of the archive, Doct6.com, is to fight against attempts by authorities to erase the tragedy from the history books. The archive will also shed light on what led ordinary people to using violence against fellow civilians.

"The public has not paid enough attention to, or are not aware of what happened; public knowledge of what happened that day is limited," she said.

Prof Puangthong said the tragedy that occurred on that day revealed a dark side of Thai society and "only through remembering it can we prevent similar violence being repeated".

"In order to stop violent incidents like this happening again, we must learn from it. It teaches us a lesson that if we don't want this atrocity repeated, we must not use violence as a means to deal with disputes and those who have different opinions," she said.

On Friday, Thammasat University hosted an event commemorating the 41th anniversary of the massacre.

On that fateful day, soldiers and police, along with paramilitary forces, surrounded the Thammasat University campus in Tha Prachan and killed scores of student activists who had gathered to oppose the return of Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn, the former dictator who was overthrown and fled the country after a popular uprising on Oct 14, 1973.

The crackdown was largely fuelled by the anti-communism movement in Southeast Asia. Students were accused of being communists and anti-royalist.

Following the crackdown, the military used the opportunity to seize control of the country.

Ta Pianapitham, a former student activist who participated in the protest 41 years ago, said the massacre should never have happened, adding society must give more importance to this event in order to remember it and make sure the same mistake is not made again.

"After what happened on October 6, we've kept wishing that that kind of brutality will not happen again, but it has happened over and over again," he said.

For, Orisa Airawamwat, a former student activist who was shot and wounded in the chin, memories of the massacre are still vivid.

"We were surrounded by armed forces, in the midst of shooting, I was trying to reach out to my friend, only to be met with silence. In the darkness, I couldn't see anything, I reached out to touch him and found that blood was streaming from his body," she said.

The death toll remains disputed. While authorities put it at 46, survivors insist those who died exceeded 100.

The archive can be accessed on Doct6.com. Sources and scattered information were chronicled, digitised and uploaded for public access. The site also contains the stories of the victims who lost their lives.

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