Thammasat Massacre

The Thammasat Massacre in Thailand known simply as “the 6 October event” was an attack by Thai state forces and far-right paramilitaries on student protesters on the campus of Thammasat University and the adjacent Sanam Luang Square in Bangkok. On 6 October 1976. Prior to the massacre, four to five thousand students from various universities had demonstrated for more than a week against the return to Thailand from Singapore of former military dictator Thanom Kittikachorn.

A day before the massacre, the Thai press reported on a play staged by student protesters the previous day, which allegedly featured the mock hanging of Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn. In response to this rumored outrage, military and police as well as paramilitary forces surrounded the university. Just before dawn on 6 October, the attack on the student protesters began and continued until noon. Over 100 died in the killings, 167 wounded and 3,000 arrested.

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At dawn on 6 October, the military and the police as well as the three paramilitary forces blocked exits from the university and began shooting into the campus, using M-16s, carbines, pistols, grenade launchers, and even armor-piercing rifles. Prevented from leaving the campus or even sending wounded to the hospital, the students begged for a ceasefire. The attacks continued. The actors in the mock hanging had already turned themselves in to Seni at the prime minister’s office. When one student came out to surrender, he was shot and killed. After a free-fire order was issued by the Bangkok police chief, the campus was stormed, with Border Patrol Police leading the attack. Students diving into the Chao Phraya River were shot at by naval vessels while others who surrendered, lying down on the ground, were picked up and beaten, many to death. Some were hung from trees and beaten, others were set afire. Female students were raped, alive and dead, by police and Red Gaurs. The massacre continued for several hours, and was only halted at noon by a rainstorm.

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On the afternoon of 6 October after the massacre, the major factions of the military which formed the general staff agreed in principle to overthrow Seni, a plot that King Bhumibol was well aware of and approved, which in turn ensured the success of the coup-makers. Later that night, Admiral Sangad Chaloryu, the newly appointed supreme commander, announced that the military, under the name of the “National Administrative Reform Council” (NARC) had seized power to “prevent a Vietnamese-backed communist plot” and to preserve the “Thai monarchy forever”. The king appointed the anti-communist and royalist judge Thanin Kraivichien to lead a government that was composed of those who were loyal to the king. Thanin and his cabinet restored the repressive climate which had existed before 1973.

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