Today, Thursday, marks the 46th anniversary of the killing of students by police and ultranationalist forces in a political clash on October 6, 1976, also known as the October 6 event.
Thais nationwide remember the event as one of the worst massacres in political history.
The massacre followed a riot in which thousands of students and concerned citizens gathered at Thammasat University and nearby Sanam Luang square to protest the return of former military dictator Field Marshall Thanom Kittikachorn to Thailand from Singapore.
Before that, an uprising on October 14, 1973, overthrew Thanom’s unpopular regime, forcing him to flee Thailand to the neighboring country.
On September 7, 1976, a group of political activists held a rally at Thammasat University to discuss the possibility of Thanom’s return and its impact on peace and order.
On September 24, Wichai Ketsriphongsorn and Chumphon Thummai, two labour activists from Nakhon Pathom, who put up anti-Thanom posters, were attacked and beaten to death. Their bodies were gruesomely hung from a gate in the province’s Muang district, which later became known as the “Red Gate”.
On September 28, more than 10,000 people gathered at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok’s Pathum Wan district to protest against Thanom returning. The rallyists who comprised college students and the general public decided to move to Thammasat University in Phra Nakhon district on October 3, and later announced they would disperse on October 6 during the day.
However, at 5.30am on October 6, the police used war-grade weapons, including assault rifles, grenade launchers, anti-armour rounds and grenades, in a move to crack down on the protesters. The demonstrators frantically tried to defend themselves, but were quickly defeated.
Right-wing paramilitaries also lynched fleeing protesters, who were reportedly assaulted, robbed, sexually abused, shot, burned alive or beaten to death. Even some who had already surrendered were not spared.
Several sources claimed more than 100 died at the hands of the military, police and paramilitary forces, contradicting the government report which said 46 persons were killed. The report also said 167 protesters were injured and 3,094 arrested on that day.
Now, every year on October 6, relatives of the victims, representatives of political parties and various organisations make merit and lay wreaths and flowers at the Sculpture of 6 October 1976 Memorial near Thammasat University’s Tha Pra Chan campus.