Spectre of university massacre looms over Thai student protests

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Relentless gunfire, lynched bodies, frenzied mobs — the horrific violence Krisadang Nutcharut witnessed at Thammasat University more than 40 years ago propelled him into a legal career now spent defending Thailand’s young pro-democracy activists.

Like many survivors, he regards October 6, 1976, as one of the darkest days in his country’s history, when security forces and royalist militias murdered dozens of youngsters in the middle of Bangkok.

“It wasn’t an equal battle — it was a massacre. The students didn’t fight back, we didn’t have guns,” Krisadang tells AFP.

“It is a lesson I will never forget.”

Today, the 62-year-old represents two prominent faces of a new youth-led movement against the kingdom’s military-aligned government — human rights lawyer Anon Numpa and activist Panupong Jadnok.

The duo are facing sedition charges after calling for reforms to the kingdom’s powerful monarchy in massive demonstrations.

The latest rally drew 30,000 protesters in the biggest public gathering Thailand has seen in years.

The growing momentum of the protests — peaceful so far — has nevertheless raised the haunting memories of 1976 in Krisadang’s mind. 

“I have to teach the younger generation not to underestimate the military because they are merciless,” he says.

The kingdom has long seen an interminable cycle of political violence and short-lived civilian governments bracketed by military coups.

But the Thammasat massacre stands out for its brutality against students, who had been protesting for weeks against an ousted dictator’s return to the country from exile.

Security forces and royalist mobs shot, beat and stabbed students around the campus, while others were strung up from trees.

Officially, 46 protesters were killed, though survivors believe the true toll was more than 100.

No official has ever been held accountable for the bloody event.

– Shots, grenades –

Seared in Krisadang’s memory are snapshots


Tropical Atlantic begins to awaken as October looms

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Twenty-three named storms have whirled their way across the Atlantic basin so far this season, exhausting the naming list used by meteorologists and forcing then to dip into the Greek alphabet for only the second time in history. While the majority of systems have been relatively weak and unremarkable, some, like Category 4 Laura and Category 2 Sally, have caused significant damage.

Now, October promises to bring another round of weather that must be watched, as a combination of large-scale atmospheric circulations overlap to enhance tropical weather activity. The focus is already on the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, which tend to prove to be autumn hot spots for storms. In fact, one or two weather systems there could already be in the works.

System to watch for the Yucatán Peninsula; heavy rainfall possible in Florida

On Wednesday, a strip of low pressure oriented from south to north was sauntering westward across the eastern Caribbean. Satellite imagery reveals a few thunderstorms along that axis of low pressure, and computer models indicate that one clustering of downpours may eventually acquire some spin and serve as the impetus for tropical formation.

It’s a good bet that something will form or at least try to form, but the wild card exists in where along that low pressure “trough” it will be. Some models, like the American GFS and the Canadian model, show a slightly weaker, southerly solution, with a low pressure system clipping or passing over the northern Yucatán Peninsula this weekend. That would bring 3 to 6 inches of rain, with localized eight-inch amounts, to northern Quintana Roo and the Yucatán states of Mexico.

Other models, including the European model, fringe the Yucatán Peninsula with that lobe of spin. The German ICON model depicts an even farther north solution, which would yield