Moments of Silence: The Unforgetting of the October 6, 1976, Massacre in Bangkok

Hardback: $72.00
ISBN-13: 9780824882334
Published: March 2020
Paperback: $28.00
ISBN-13: 9780824882341
Published: March 2020

Additional Information

320 pages | 11 b&w illustrations, 1 map
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  • About the Book
  • The massacre on October 6, 1976, in Bangkok was brutal and violent, its savagery unprecedented in modern Thai history. Four decades later there has been no investigation into the atrocity; information remains limited, the truth unknown. There has been no collective coming to terms with what happened or who is responsible. Thai society still refuses to confront this dark page in its history.

    Moments of Silence focuses on the silence that surrounds the October 6 massacre. Silence, the book argues, is not forgetting. Rather it signals an inability to forget or remember—or to articulate a socially meaningful memory. It is the “unforgetting,” the liminal domain between remembering and forgetting. Historian Thongchai Winichakul, a participant in the events of that day, gives the silence both a voice and a history by highlighting the factors that contributed to the unforgetting amidst changing memories of the massacre over the decades that followed. They include shifting political conditions and context, the influence of Buddhism, the royal-nationalist narrative of history, the role played by the monarchy as moral authority and arbiter of justice, and a widespread perception that the truth might have devastating ramifications for Thai society. The unforgetting impacted both victims and perpetrators in different ways. It produced a collective false memory of an incident that never took place, but it also produced silence that is filled with hope and counter-history.

    Moments of Silence tells the story of a tragedy in Thailand—its victims and survivors—and how Thai people coped when closure was unavailable in the wake of atrocity. But it also illuminates the unforgetting as a phenomenon common to other times and places where authoritarian governments flourish, where atrocities go unexamined, and where censorship (imposed or self-directed) limits public discourse. The tensions inherent in the author’s dual role offer a riveting story, as well as a rare and intriguing perspective. Most of all, this provocative book makes clear the need to provide a place for past wrongs in the public memory.

  • Contributors
    • Thongchai Winichakul is emeritus professor of history at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
  • Reviews and Endorsements
    • After reading Moments of Silence, no one should ever again refuse scholars the right to fuse emotion with analysis in reflecting on tragic events they have witnessed. At once a riveting memoir, a careful scholarly assessment, a yearning for conversations never consummated, and an act of sustained political courage tempered with compassionate fairness, the book exposes the violence that the continuing silence about the events of 1976 has inflicted on the Thai body politic. That silence, the norms that sustain it, and the labile public memory those norms have shaped serve the unsmiling authoritarianism that still haunts the “land of smiles” to this day.
    • Thongchai Winichakul has done it again. Siam Mapped remains one of the most impressive books on Thailand’s past ever written, and his new one is just as good. Moments of Silence is also bracingly personal, for its author as a young activist was directly affected by the violence that convulsed Bangkok in 1976. An innovative blend of memoir and theoretically informed ruminations on memory, Moments of Silence has much to offer not just those concerned with Southeast Asia but also anyone interested in the myriad other settings, from Beijing and Burma to Cairo and Kent State, that have been sites of massacres, large or small, with complex and contested legacies.
    • It is very difficult for anyone belonging to the 1970s generations of Southeast Asian student activists to read and finish Moments of Silence.There is so much pain in this memoir of Thongchai Winichakul. Yet, somehow, he has been able to take a step back and analyze the 1976 massacre of his fellow students at the Thammasat University. With this book, Thailand’s ruling elites will not be able to hide the full story of that tragedy anymore.