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Thai protesters spark interest in 1976 university massacre

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Anti-government protests challenging the institutions of Thailand’s traditional ruling class are not just prompting intense debate about the country’s future

BANGKOK — Anti-government protests challenging the institutions of Thailand’s traditional ruling class are not just prompting intense debate about the country’s future. They are driving young people to delve into the darkest events of the not-so-distant past.

Academics and researchers say they’re seeing a surge in the number of people wanting to learn about a massacre of students 44 years ago that mainstream Thai history books ignore.

At Bangkok’s Thammasat University last week, students who were exploring connections to the troubled past took photographs for “then and now” comparisons to the bloodletting that took place on the campus on Oct. 6, 1976.

At another university in the capital, students hungry for information about the massacre scoured books to write an article for their online newspaper. Like many young Thais, they had known virtually nothing about it.

“We connect ourselves to the Oct. 6 event because it was when the state used force against those with different beliefs,” said third-year student Ruchapong Chamjirachaikul. “And we can see from the present that there are people and the student movement questioning the power of the established political institutions and the responses are also threats, use of force, and legal intimidation against those with different beliefs.”

Thailand in October 1976 was in ferment after a dictator ousted by a popular uprising three years earlier was allowed to return