Tyrell Haberkorn (2017) - The Anniversary of a Massacre and the Death of a Monarch,” Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 76, No. 2 (May) 2017
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As part of this year’s anniversary of the October 6, 1976, massacre at Thammasat University, an outdoor exhibit of photographs of the violence and the three preceding years of student and other social movements was displayed upon the very soccer field in the center of campus where students were beaten, shot, lynched, and murdered forty years prior. Several of the photographs were printed on large sheets of acrylic and positioned such that the images of the buildings in the photographs were aligned with the actual buildings, which remain largely unchanged. The most striking of these was a photograph of hundreds of students stripped to the waist who were lying face down on the soccer field prior to being arrested and taken away. At the edge of the image was the top of the university’s iconic dome building, which lined up with the existing building. The organizers explained that their intention was “to reflect a perspective on the past through the eyes of people in the present in order to show the cruelty of humans to one another.” The proximity generated by the image was underlined by the fact that the fortieth anniversary of the massacre and coup in 1976 that led to twelve years of dictatorship was taking place under yet another dictatorship, that of a military junta calling itself the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), which seized power on May 22, 2014, in the twelfth coup since the end of the absolute monarchy on June 24, 1932. Suchada Chakphisut, founding editor of Sarakadee magazine and Thai Civil Rights and Investigative Journalism, who was a first-year Thammasat student during the massacre, began her autobiographical account of the day, written for the anniversary this year, by writing: “We meet every year when 6 October comes around, and with it an inexplicable sadness always takes hold of my psyche. It has grown even more devastating since the 22 May 2014 coup, in which we must face the news of the arrest and detention of activists and those who oppose dictatorship.” This was not a commemoration after dictatorship such as those of the same era held in Argentina or Chile during recent years of democratization, but memories of dictatorship in situ.