Golden garlands graced the 14th October 1973 Memorial on the vibrant Ratchadamnoen Avenue in Bangkok. These tributes were laid there on the 50th anniversary of a student uprising that courageously took a stand against dictatorship. The sites, saturated with historical importance, resounded with echoes of change and hopes for freedom. The stage was set against the backdrop of the Bangkok city skyline – a city profoundly impacted by the waves of events that occurred five decades ago.
Raising his voice for this significant occasion, the House Speaker, Wan Muhamad Noor Matha, represented the government’s sentiments on Saturday. Filling in for Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, he delivered a profound message, emphasizing the importance of learning from the past. He urged every Thai citizen to reach back into their turbulent history, relive the ferocious spirit of the Oct 14, 1973 student uprising, and harness this passion to shape the future political system and strengthen the essence of democracy.
House Speaker Matha expressed his admiration for the brave students and civilians who courageously fought against dictatorship for true democratic values. Their resilience paved the way for future generations and shaped the face of Thai politics today. In his words, “If those students and civilians had not begun fighting for real democracy, you and I and every other Thai would not have had the opportunity to have politics the way it is now.”
He encouraged the public to ponder over the first major peaceful mass gathering that occurred on October 14, 1973. This momentous event left an indelible impact on the political landscape and its echos have lasted for over five long decades. Despite facing several military coup attempts, the lessons learned from these democratic efforts live on.
Revisiting the horrors of Oct 14, when peaceful protests against Thanom Kittikachorn’s dictatorship spiraled into chaos, Matha reminded the audience that bravery often comes at a high cost. The event resulted in 77 deaths and over 800 injuries. On that fateful evening, Thanom finally resigned.
Despite the horrendous loss, Matha believed that those first fighters for democracy had noble intentions. Their desire was for future generations to study the events, take inspiration from their struggles, and contribute towards improving democracy in the country. Half a century has passed, but the loss and courage of those brave hearts beckon Thai citizens to remind themselves about the vital essence of democracy.
Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew echoed the sentiment – “They sacrificed their lives in the hope of bringing real democracy to Thailand. And I truly believe their sacrifice will pay off. We will be leading Thailand towards complete democracy.”
Among the attendees were Wasan Paileeklee, a national human rights commissioner, Bangkok governor Chadchart Sittipunt, and representatives from various pro-democracy groups, along with relatives of those who had fallen in the historic 1973 combat. They gathered to celebrate the indomitable spirit, remember the sacrifices, and reaffirm the path towards complete democracy.