By The Sunday Nation
File photo: Pol General Vasit Dejkunjorn
Urges student to pay greater role of country's welfare
AS A ROYAL Court Security police officer in touch with young and energetic students protesting against the military government of General Thanom Kittikhachorn during October 1973, Pol General Vasit Dejkunjorn appreciated the spirit of the students.
Vasit wanted to see that spirit of public service nurtured and continued.
“Thinking about what I wrote at the end of October 14, 1973, my feeling about it is the same,” said Vasit. “I still strongly feel that the students’ spirit to serve the country at that time should be nurtured and carried on, following His Majesty’s royal guidance given to them the day before the tragic day of October 14 broke. Besides being responsible to their times, our young students should indeed be responsible for the people, something that I see missing during the modern political periods.”
In his speech on His Majesty the late King and the events of 1973, delivered to an audience at the October 14 Memorial yesterday, Vasit recalled the country’s well-being as the emergence of communism challenged the region. The ideology, in fact, was growing in Thailand, he said. The United States clearly opposed the ideology, with the Thai military government of General Thanom followed their lead. Political suppression became prevalent and there was violence in the country, with politicians suspected of communist sympathies arrested.
Thus came the emergence of young university students who stepped out in protest against the military government’s hard-line actions and its refusal to return democracy and the constitution to the people.
From hundreds, the number of these political novices grew into thousands publicly opposing the government. The military, in turn, had low tolerance for the protests and made arrests.
Vasit observed the situation becoming more confrontational despite the relatively peaceful behaviour of student protesters.
On October 13, the royal court security police were instructed to bring in student representatives to speak to His Majesty at Chitralada Palace from around 5.30pm until about 8pm.
One student leader, Seksan Prasertkul, was absent at first before being brought in and helped resolve misunderstandings.
“The fact is a number of students waiting for their fellow students outside did not agree with their decision to dissolve the protests. They moved close to the palace, and it’s the first time that we see thousands of protesters near the palace,” recalled Vasit.
“His Majesty then informed them that the government had agreed to release the 13 protesters who had been arrested and promised to deliver a new constitution within 20 months, much sooner than the government’s promise of three years. I was the one who read this news to them, and his guidance to them about reconciliation.
“His Majesty actually hardly slept for seven nights, being concerned about the situation,” Vasit told those at the memorial yesterday.
Vasit remembers students singing the royal anthem song while heading to the palace before breaking up.
“I knelt down and cried for the situation being over,” he said.
But it was not over.
As students broke up, bombs exploded and police moved in. The chaotic scene continued throughout the night, with many students fleeing into the palace to seek refuge from His Majesty, marking the beginning of the tragic October 14 bloodshed that some reports place at 77 dead and 857 injuries.
The following day, His Majesty was on television, declaring the ending of the situation.
“I never saw him sad like this. The situation was eventually returned to normal when people heard what he said,” recalled Vasit.
“Some might argue that students nowadays have done their best in serving the country, but my feeling is in several political crises in recent years, I can’t see what role students played,” Vasit concluded.
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