Thursday, July 24, 2014

Democracy Movement, 1973

Although the Thai absolute monarchy was abolished in 1932 and a constitutional monarchy instituted in what was the country’s first coup d’etat, the Democracy Movement did not begin until the late 1960s with Thai student demonstrations calling for changes in the military government of Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn. These started in 1968 and grew in size and numbers in the early 1970s despite the continued official ban on political meetings.

(front patio orchids)


The following is mostly taken from the Wiki on the History of Thailand:

In June 1973, nine Ramkhamhaeng University students were expelled for publishing an article in a student newspaper that was critical of the government. Shortly after, thousands of students held a protest at the Democracy Monument, in Bangkok, demanding the re-enrollment of the nine students. The government ordered the universities to shut, but shortly afterwards allowed the students to be re-enrolled.

In October 1973, another 13 students were arrested on charges of conspiracy to overthrow the government. This time the student protesters were joined by workers, businessmen and other ordinary citizens. The demonstrations swelled to several hundred thousand and the issue broadened from the release of the arrested students to demands for a new constitution and the replacement of the current government.

On October 13, the government released the detainees. Leaders of the demonstrations, among them Seksan Prasertkul, called off the march in accordance with the wishes of the King who was publicly against the democracy movement. In a speech to graduating students, he criticized the pro-democracy movement by telling students to concentrate on their studies and leave politics to their elders [military government].

As the crowds were breaking up the next day, on October 14, many students found themselves unable to leave because the police had attempted to control the flow of the crowd by blocking the southern route to Rajavithi Road. Cornered and overwhelmed by the hostile crowd, the police responded with teargas and gunfire.

The military was called in, and tanks rolled down Rajdamnoen Avenue and helicopters fired down at Thammasat University. A number of students commandeered buses and fire engines in an attempt to halt the progress of deployed tanks by ramming into them. With chaos on the streets, King Bhumibol opened the gates of Chitralada Palace to the students who were being gunned down by the army. Despite orders from Thanom that the military action be intensified, army commander Kris Sivara had the army withdrawn from the streets.

The King condemned the government's inability to handle the demonstrations, ordered Thanom, Praphas, and Narong to leave the country, and notably condemned the students' supposed role as well. At 06:10 p.m., Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn resigned from his post as Prime Minister. An hour later, the King appeared on national television, asking for calm, and announcing that Thanom had been replaced with Dr. Sanya Dharmasakti, a respected law professor, as prime minister.


(The Democracy Monument in Bangkok, built in 1940 to commemorate the fall of the absolute monarchy in 1932, was the scene of massive demonstrations in 1973, 1976, 1992 and 2010).


 References for this section:

1932: Revolution in Siam by Charnvit Kasetsiri; Thammasart University Press, 2000 ISBN 974-85814-4-6
The End of the Absolute Monarchy in Siam by Benjamin A. Batson; Oxford University Press, 1984 ISBN 0-86861-600-1
History of the Thai Revolution by Thawatt Mokarapong; Thai Watana Panich Press, 1983 ISBN 974-07-5396-5
The Free Thai Legend by Dr. Vichitvong na Pombhejara; Saengdao, 2003 ISBN 974-9590-65-1
Siam becomes Thailand by Judith A. Stowe; University of Hawaii Press, 1991 ISBN 0-8248-1394-4
Thailand: A Short History by David K. Wyatt; Yale University Press, 2004 ISBN 0-300-08475-7
Thailand: The Politics of Despotic Paternalism by Thak Chaloemtiarana; Thammasart University Press, 1979
Thailand's Secret War: OSS, SOE and the Free Thai Underground During World War II by E. Bruce Reynolds; Cambridge University Press, 2004 ISBN 0-521-83601-8

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