Buddhism and the Unforgetting of the 1976 Massacre in Bangkok

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Virtuous Silence: Buddhism and the Unforgetting of the 1976 Massacre in Bangkok
Southeast Asia Seminar Series

Thongchai Winichakul
Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Friday, March 8, 2013, 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM

LOCATION: SS 3130, Political Science Conference Room, Sidney Smith Hall, 100 St. George Street, Toronto
Register Online at: http://www.munk.utoronto.ca/EventDetails.aspx?EventId=13572

The 6th October 1976 massacre in Bangkok has been one of the most traumatic events in modern Thai history. It is not forgotten, yet to these days, the
account of the tragedy is vague, evasive and limited. It is the “unforgetting.” For some, Buddhism contributes to this unforgetting silence. To deal with the painful memory, some survivors of the massacre draw strength and understanding from Buddhism which provides mental (intellectual and spiritual) resources. The Buddhist approach is quite different from the conventional (Western? Non-Buddhist) ones in regard to healing or “coming to terms” with the past in order to move forward. What does it mean to “come to terms” in the Thai Buddhist environment? How does this Buddhist view address the issues of justice, punishment, impunity, accountability, and historical truth? Are the tensions between the legal/secular approach to traumatic past and the Buddhist one? Has the former been compromised? What is the significance of “forgiveness” in the Buddhist view and how does it work? Does Buddhism encourage forgetting? Or does it offer its notion of remembering? What could be the effects of the Buddhist approach on social memories and historical understanding of the event in the longer term? The study is a cultural and intellectual history, not a philosophical or psychological one. It is not interested in the doctrinal explanation or its disapproval. It wants to examine the ways those people dealt with the traumatic past in particular cultural and historical contexts.

Thongchai Winichakul is Professor of History at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research interests are in cultural and intellectual history of Siam including nationalism, modern geography and cartography, and historical knowledge. He currently works on the intellectual foundation of modern Siam (1880s-1930s) and also a book on the memories of the 1976 massacre in Bangkok. He also publishes articles and books in Thai, including many political and social commentaries. He is elected the President of the Association for Asian Studies in 2013/14.

Co-Sponsored by U of T/McMaster University Yehan Numata Program in Buddhist Studies, Dr. David Chu Distinguished Leaders in Asia Pacific Studies,
Department of History, Canada Research Chair.

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