Thailand is an (un)surprisingly violent country. Not only is the rate of intentional homicide high, the country also experienced 18 coup d’etats since 1932 when Thailand embarked on the path to democracy. One of such uprisings resulted in deaths of 46 people which earned it a name of Thammasat University Massacre.
Brief History of Thammasat University Massacre
Thai field marshal Thanom Kittikachorn ruled the country along with his cadre for much of the 1960’s. His rule continued into the early 70’s when he was ousted by a student-led uprising on October 14, 1973. Field marshal Thanom Kittikachorn, Narong Kittikachorn and Praphat Charusathien – a trio of men whose military rule had earned them a title of “Three Tyrants” were forced to flee Thailand.
Political instability soared as para-military groups financed and trained by the United States to fight the leftists continued to increase the death toll. Thanom Kittikachorn returned to Thailand from Singapore where he was hiding on September 19, 1976 and went to have himself ordained as a monk at Wat Bovornives. This was met with strong opposition and protests by the students, but in order to ensure that Thanom’s ordination goes on unchallenged, the temple was guarded by the members of anti-leftist para-military group Red Gaurs.
The US backed anti-leftists accused protesting students of being the communists and launched an attack. The students who barricaded themselves at the Thammasat University demanded along with the union workers that Thanom Kittikachorn be expelled. Their demands were countered with firepower from anti-leftists and the Thai police.
Thammasat University Massacre
Around 2,000 students who gathered within the Thammasat University were surrounded and sealed in by more than 4,000 Red Gaurs on October 5, 1976. During early morning hours of October 6, the Red Gaurs used their military grade weapons to opened fire at students on the Thammasat University campus. Thai police later stormed the grounds and the despite students pleas for a ceasefire, the police commander Chumphon authorised free fire on the campus.
Many of the surrendering students were shot dead, some died being beaten as they lay on the ground pleading for mercy, others were hanged after being captured – all in all, at least 46 people lost their life during the offensive and about a thousand were taken prisoners. Captured females were raped, males kicked, clubbed, shot at or otherwise lynched.
Picture of a Hanged Man Being Beaten with Foldable Chair
Sometimes during the killing and lynching of students described above, the picture of a recently hanged young man who already went limp dead but is about to take a hit by a foldable chair while onlookers, including children stand around laughing was taken.
Photographer Neal Ulevich who was commissioned by Associated Press to photograph events in Bangkok won the Pulitzer Prize and World Press Photo Award for the photo. After being awarded the prizes, Neal Ulevich said:
When I won the Pulitzer, the Bangkok papers noted it on page one. They were very proud that a photographer from Bangkok had won the Pulitzer. They didn’t show the pictures.
High resolution picture of the Thammasat University Massacre available. Click on the image twice to get to high res one.
This photo was also featured on the cover of the Dead Kennedys single Holiday in Cambodia (even though it didn’t take place in Cambodia). The corpse was a second year student at the Chulalongkorn University in Thailand. Some of the cheering onlookers may still be alive today – given how young they were when the photo was taken. They’re probably in their early 40’s now. Must be a memory to be proud of.