06 October 2017

41 ปี 6 ตุลา ปกป้องประชาธิปไตยประชาชน

41 ปี 6 ตุลา ปกป้องประชาธิปไตยประชาชน
The Two Brothers
By the Time It Gets Dark
On 6th October 1976, at least forty-six people, mostly students, were killed in a military massacre at Thammasat University in Bangkok. The massacre remains one of the most shocking moments in Thailand's modern history, though it is also part of a cycle of military violence, with similarly brutal suppressions of pro-democracy protesters in 1973 (also at Thammasat), 1992 (Black May), and 2010.

The Thammasat students had been protesting against the return from exile of Thanom Kittikachorn, who was Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister during an extended period of military rule from 1957 to 1973. On 25th September 1976, two anti-Thanom activists were hanged by the police, and on 4th October 1976 a group of Thammasat students staged a reenactment of the hanging. One of the students who posed as a hanging victim bore a resemblance to Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn (who is now King Rama X), and on its front page on 6th October 1976, the Dao Siam (ดาวสยาม) newspaper printed his photograph and accused the students of hanging the Prince in effigy.

Military-owned radio stations demonised the students as Communists who should be killed, and militia groups (the Village Scouts, Nawaphon, and Red Gaurs) joined the police and army in storming Thammasat University. A photograph by Neal Ulevich, of a man about to hit a corpse hanging from a tree with a folding chair, has come to symbolise the extreme violence and prejudice of the massacre. (Ulevich's photograph was reprinted in Moments, on page 113.)

Manit Sriwanichpoom showed blood-red photographs of the victims at the Flashback '76 exhibition. Thunska Pansittivorakul's film The Terrorists (ผู้ก่อการร้าย) included archive footage of the massacre. Thunska's most recent film, Homogeneous, Empty Time (สุญกาล), highlights the violence inflicted by the militia groups, in contrast to the heroic portrayal of the Village Scouts in anti-Communist propaganda films such as Sombat Methanee's หนักแผ่นดิน. Ulevich's photograph was appropriated by Manit—Horror in Pink (ปีศาจสีชมพู)—and Kosit Juntaratip (Allergic Realities), and was recreated in Samanrat Kanjanavanit's banned film Shakespeare Must Die (เชคสเปียร์ต้องตาย).

Today, Thammasat University will commemorate the anniversary of the massacre with an event titled 41 ปี 6 ตุลา ปกป้องประชาธิปไตยประชาชน. Two films that address the tragedy will be screened: The Two Brothers (สองพี่น้อง), by Patporn Phoothong and Teerawat Rujenatham; and By the Time It Gets Dark (ดาวคะนอง), by Anocha Suwichakornpong. (A similar event, ลืมเสียเถิดอย่าคิดถึง, is taking place simultaneously at the Thai Film Archive.)

The Two Brothers is a short documentary about the two men (Choomporn Thummai and Vichai Kasripongsa) whose hangings were reenacted by Thammasat students; Patporn interviewed relatives of massacre victims for his earlier documentary Respectfully Yours (ด้วยความนับถือ). By the Time It Gets Dark uses actors to recreate scenes from the massacre; it was shown with Respectfully Yours earlier this year in Chiang Mai.

(The Two Brothers, part of a project to document the massacre, features the controversial Dao Siam front page. A photograph of the newspaper was censored in Prachuap Amphasawet's book พลิกแผ่นดิ: นประวัติการเมืองไทย 24 มิย 2475 ถึง14 ตค 2516, and Somsak Jeamteerasakul wrote a chapter about it in ประวัติศาสตร์ที่เพิ่งสร้าง, though it has rarely, if ever, been reproduced.)