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This Day in International Law: October 6th

By Edward Richter

October 6th, 1976 was the date of the Thammasat University Massacre in Thailand, where it is simply known as the October 6th event. The reason for the massacre is that on September 19th the countries former military dictator Thanom Kittikachorn returned from his exile in Singapore. As Thanom had been ousted only three years earlier due to his gross unpopularity, this return was met with widespread protest. These protests in turn led to violence with anti-Thanom protestors, and on September 25th protesters had been beaten to death by Thai Police. This led to even greater unrest, which culminated into the Thammasat University protest where a dramatic reenactment of a hanging took place, with the victims possessing an unfortunate resemblance to the crown prince. The resemblance to the crown prince provided the police, military, and right-wing military groups an excuse for a crackdown, which resulted in an encirclement of the campus and then a systematic killing of all the students they encountered through the campus, this was a prelude to the return of Thailand to military rule. While the event has had considerable importance in modern Thai culture, the perpetrators have since been granted amnesty which has denied Thai society the justice of having them answer for their actions.

What occurred at the massacre was a clear violation of Articles 3, 19, and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as arguably a violation of article 10, due to the amnesty that they were granted. Is it worthwhile for the survivors of the massacre to try and seek justice in an international forum given the fact that Thailand was one of the original signatories of the Declaration? Their actions are in clear violation of its provisions, but is there no hope for recourse through the Thai courts? Alternatively, would it be better in light of the ongoing tension in Thailand to further emphasize the move towards reconciliation that the country has been undergoing in trying to reduce the social strife that gave rise to, and in light of the 2014 coup continues to give rise to, violence in the country.



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