‘Cleansing Democracy of Socialism’ Crushing the Thai Left on the 6th Oct 1976 and the Consequences for Present Day Politics (17 pages : 2001)

Cleansing democracy of socialism
Crushing the Thai Left on the 6th Oct 1976 and the consequences for present day politics
(Paper presented at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, September 2001
บทความนำเสนอที่ S.O.A.S. มหาวิทยาลัยลอนดอน กันยายน ๒๕๔๔)
Assistant Professor Ji Giles Ungpakorn
Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University,
Bangkok 10330, Thailand.
(Secretary of The 6th October 1976 Fact Finding Committee)
E-mail: Giles.U@Chula.ac.th


On the morning of 6th October 1976, Thai uniformed police, alongside armed semi-fascist thugs, crushed the student movement in Thailand. This brutal state crime was supported, either directly or indirectly, by all sections of the Thai ruling elite. Their aim was not so much the crushing of the young parliamentary democracy, which had arisen after the mass popular uprising three years earlier, but the destruction of the growing socialist movement throughout the country. This was achieved in the long term also by the subsequent collapse of the stalinist Communist Party of Thailand. This destruction of the left came not only in organisational form, but also in terms of the present collective historical memory about the Thai left. The results of “cleansing democracy of socialism” can be seen in the present corrupt and money dominated system of Thai parliamentary politics. Yet, the impact of the Asian Economic Crisis and a whole new generation of people with little knowledge of the 1970s, means that socialism may yet creep back into Thai democracy. The Populist policies of the new Thai Ruk Thai government may be an indication of social pressure from below and the re-emergence of class-based politics.


Crushing the Left in 1976
The received wisdom in Thai society states that “socialism is an alien creed, not popular with Thais”. Yet there was a time when a significant proportion of the population openly supported socialist ideas. In the General Elections of January 1975, three left-wing parties, The Socialist Party of Thailand, The Socialist Front and New Force Party won a total of two and a half million votes or 14.4% of the total vote (Morrell & Samudavanija 1981; 265). In addition to this, the ideological influence of the illegal Communist Party of Thailand was particularly significant among young students, trade unionists and farmer-activists. In present day Thai politics all political parties are allied to capital and business and even the memory of 1970s radicalism seems to have been eradicated. How did this happen?In the early hours of 6th October 1976, Thai uniformed police, stationed in the grounds of the National Museum, next door to Thammasat University, destroyed a peaceful gathering of students and working people on the university campus under a hail of relentless automatic fire . At the same time a large gang of ultra-right-wing “informal forces”, known as the Village Scouts, Krating-Daeng and Nawapon, indulged in an orgy of violence and brutality towards anyone near the front entrance of the university. Students and their supporters were dragged out of the university and hung from the trees around Sanam Luang; others were burnt alive in front of the Ministry of “Justice” while the mob danced round the flames. Women and men, dead or alive, were subjected to the utmost degrading and violent behaviour. One woman had a piece of wood shoved up her vagina. Village Scouts dragged dead and dying students from the front of the campus and dumped them on the road, where they were finished-off. A young man plunged a sharp wooden spike into the corpses while a boy urinated over them. Not only did the state’s “forces of law and order” do nothing to halt this violence, some uniformed members of the police force were filmed cheering-on the crowd.