Announcements Library of Congress Webinar - Apr 4, 2024 03:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Moments of Silence in Modern Thai History: The Unforgetting of October 6, 1976

Thongchai Winichakul is a world-famous Asianist whose work has won numerous prestigious awards and been translated into many languages. 

His latest work, Moments of Silence: The Unforgetting of the October 6, 1976, Massacre in Bangkok, focuses on challenging the culture of impunity, political violence, and weakness of the rule of law in modern Thailand and is vital to our times. It is extremely relevant not just for current crises in Southeast Asia, but for any liberal democracy the world over. It explores the silence around the 1976 Thammasat University massacre that killed over 40 students by Thai police, the military, and militias. This massacre was supported by and involved the Monarchy and Thai Buddhist Sangha (Order of Monks), thus rendering it unable to ever be prosecuted. Part of Thongchai’s work has been to explore the culture and ideology in Thailand that enables a powerful culture of impunity, especially at the intersection of Buddhism and politics. In this case, Buddhist notions of reconciliation and forgiveness are often employed to halt pursuit of justice in a legal setting but instead maintain a Thai cultural value of harmony that is abused by those in power. In the face of the decline of liberal democracy across Southeast Asia and beyond, with a major locus in Thailand since the 2006 and 2014 coups, Dr. Thonghchai’s talk informs us of the continuing need for human rights, rule of law, accountability, social justice, truth and legal recourse for victims of political violence, even from the highest levels of societies.

For this work, Dr. Winichakul received the George McT. Kahin Book Prize by the Association for Asian Studies at its 2023 annual meeting.