14 October 1973 Memorial

Tucked away on one corner of the intersection of Tanao and Rajadamnoen Roads, and barely signed on the outside, is the memorial to those who lost their lives in a massacre of civilian protesters on 14 October 1973.

The memorial to those who died in the 14 October 1973 student unrest.

Like many events in recent Thai history, there are a number of different versions of what happened on that day and the months before. At the time, Thailand was ruled by Field Marshall Thanom Kittikachon, who had ruled the country since 1963. In 1971 he dissolved parliament imposed one-man rule. He is the man mainly responsible for Thailand's support of the US during the Vietnam war, and even committed Thai troops to the conflict.

Growing unrest over a regime that had overstayed its welcome started to come to a head in June 1973 when several students were expelled from Thammasat University for “anti-government activities”. Protests ensued and the student leaders were arrested around 5 October. The students were later released, but then re-arrested on 13 October.

By this time, about 200,000 students and other disgruntled citizens were massed in the area around the Democracy Monument. This is where the accounts of events start to diverge widely. What is relatively clear is that at some point the police seemed to lose control of the crowd, the army moved in, and opened fire on unarmed protesters.

The official death toll was 77, with over 800 other people wounded. Field Marshall Thanom, along with the head of the army and police (all related to each other) were forced to resign and go into exile. In Thanom's place, the rector of Thammasat University was appointed prime minister, becoming Thailand's first civilian ruler in over 30 years.

The BBC has a special “on this day” page about the event.

The memorial was built over 20 years after the event, as a monument to those who gave their lives in the struggle for democracy. At the center of the memorial is a conical obelisk. On the square pedestal of the obelisk are plaques inscribing the names of those killed. The sheltered area behind the obelisk displays photographs from that fateful day. Below the memorial is a small exhibition space.