This the first part in a series commemorating the 40th anniversary of the October Uprising. The series will run until October 14, the anniversary of the day students and the public stood up against a dictatorship in 1973.
The participants in the student-led October 14, 1973 uprising, known as the “October Generation”, might have fought side-by-side against military dictatorship. But when it comes to organising an event to mark the 40th anniversary of the protest, they are now divided into two camps going their separate ways.
One group is called “14 October Foundation”. It has been the organiser in the past, but now it is seen as part of the yellow shirts, as it is under Dr Wichai Chokwiwat. The other group is new. Called “The Committee of October 14 for the Absolute Democracy”, it is under one of the red-shirt leaders, Jaran Ditapichai.
The formats of the two events are similar. Both feature a speech by ex-student leader Seksan Prasertkul. So why do they need separate events?
Wichai says that while October 14 contributed greatly to society, capitalists have played a bigger role in Thai politics. “Since the ... uprising, people have become more aware of their rights. They fought [for] elections. But elections...are not the answer ... as the representatives do not aim to solve the country’s problems, [they aim] to maintain their power and benefits. This is...not a real democracy,” he said.
However, there was still a chance for both groups to join hands if they share the goal of bringing prosperity to the country, he said.
Jaran said the uprising was a fight against dictatorship. Before that, Parliament was under technocrats, lawyers and teachers. Afterwards, capitalists played a bigger role. “Without October 14, I wonder how people like Banharn Silapa-archa...would be able to have their present roles,” he said.
“Pridi Banomyong [founder of Thammasat University] told us ... absolute democracy ... means democracy in all aspects – political, economic and social. The only will that remains today is freedom,” he said.
Both the red shirts and the yellow shirts enjoy freedom, but they interpret it differently. “One group says democracy is serving capitalism, the other says the current democracy is better than bureaucratic polity in many ways,” he said.
The organisers of the October 14 events cannot join forces, as the rifts of the October Generation are too deep and their ideologies too different, he added.