October 14th is the anniversary of the 1973 massacre of students and demonstrators by the Thai military. The official death toll resulting from the vicious assault by the military was 77 deaths but it is widely believed to be much bigger. Hundreds of thousands of Thais had taken to the streets to protest against the military rule that had oppressed the country for decades. As ever, the state responded with massive violence, including all manners of atrocity ordered by members of the highest ranks.
Yet the violence was not enough to stand in the way of the people. The despot Marshal Thanom was forced to step down and a civilian government was created under Dr Sanya Dhammasak. Civilian rule lasted until 1976 when the military again seized control to protect the interests of the elite amid more bloodshed.
Ji Giles Ungpakorn wrote of the October 14th uprising:
“The successful 14th October 1973 mass uprising against the military dictatorship in Bangkok, shook the Thai ruling class to its foundations. It was the first time that the pu-noi (little people) had actually started a revolution from below. It was not planned and those that took part had only vague notions about the need for democracy, but the Thai ruling class could not shoot enough demonstrators to protect their regime. In fact the shooting just made people even more angry. It was not just a student uprising to demand a democratic constitution. It involved thousands of ordinary working class people and occurred on the crest of a rising wave of workers’ strikes. Success in over-throwing the military dictatorship bred increased confidence. Workers, peasants and students began to fight for more than just parliamentary democracy. They wanted social justice and an end to long-held privileges. Some wanted an end to exploitation and capitalism itself.”
Ji Giles Ungpakorn, Thailand: Class Struggle in an Era of Economic Crisis (1999), p.113.
The struggle, of course, continues.