Giles Ji Ungpakorn
It is fashionable among some sections of the pro-democracy movement to say that King Pumipon ordered the 6th October 1976 blood bath at Thammasart University and also the shooting of unarmed pro-democracy Red Shirts in 2010. Apart from it being untrue, this lets the military and other sections of the elite totally off the hook.
Pumipon is a weak, cowardly and characterless monarch who has spent his useless and privileged life in a bubble, surrounded by fawning, grovelling, toadies who claim that he is a “god”. He has always remained silent about the killing of innocent civilians by the military. Pumipon is a willing tool of the military and this resulted in great rewards. He has amassed so much wealth from the work of others during his reign, that he is the richest man in Thailand. Yet he does not order the military to do anything. It is the military that tells him what to do. He is their “holy puppet”. The military can then claim to be acting in the interests of the monarchy. The real power lies with the military and other sections of the political elite, not with the King.
If we examine the events surrounding the 6th October 1976 massacre of the Left, we should note the cold war context and the fact that the USA had lost its war in Indo-China. It would be wrong to think that there was a tightly coordinated plan, by a single institution, which led to the 6th October events. Over-emphasis on the role of the military, the monarchy or a particular political party would show a misunderstanding of the period. What happened on the 6th October was a result of a consensus among the entire ruling class that an open democratic system was allowing too much freedom for the Left. However, it is likely that there were both areas of agreement and disagreement within ruling circles on exactly how to act and who should act. The general view that “violent extra-parliamentary methods” would have to be used, led to the uncoordinated establishment of various right-wing fascist groups.
The turn of events leading up to the 6th October contained both planned and unplanned elements. One group who made special plans to crush the Left and stage a coup came from a coalition of Chart Thai Party and right-wing Democrat Party politicians who worked with elements in the military close to the former dictators Tanom and Prapart.
Some observers at the time believed that the monarchy also supported the idea of a coup, hoping to stop the swing to the Left, but also in order to prevent power falling into the hands of unpredictable ultra right-wing forces. Others believe that the monarchy’s plans for a coup were thwarted by the group who actually took power. However, most writers express the view that the monarchy helped to legitimise the blood bath in a broad sense, by showing open support for the right-wing. It would be amazing if a monarchy did not support the Right, given that the Left wanted a republic!
On the 5th October the Tank Corps Radio station and the ultra right-wing paper Dao Sayam called for a mobilisation of right-wing forces to “deal with” the students. Announcers urged people over the radio to “kill.. kill… kill”…..
The military coup which was actually staged at 18.30 on the afternoon of 6th October was not in fact staged by Chart Thai and right-wing Democrat Party factions and their military allies. Instead, the “National Administrative Reform Council” (N.A.R.C.) under Adm. Sangad Chaloryu, which took power and subsequently appointed Prime Minister Tanin Kraivichien, did so in order to prevent the first group from staging a coup. The N.A.R.C. was supported by those factions in the military opposed to Tanom and Prapat.
The general picture of the ruling class that emerges during 1976 is therefore one of a degree of unity on the need to crush the Left, but disunity on how to do so and, much more importantly, how to proceed after the crack-down.
To paraphrase Karl Marx, the Thai ruling class is and always has been a band of warring brothers, united in their hatred of the Left and the poor, but constantly fighting among themselves for power. Over this heap of degenerates sits the King, like a powerless fairy on a Christmas tree, constantly seeking to be on the winning side.