By Maxmilian Wechsler
• A plan was announced offering foreigners incentives to bring money into Thailand. Speaking at Dusit Thani Hotel before a large crowd of members of various chambers of commerce and diplomats, Prime Minister Thanin Kravixien said: “There has been a lot of delay and inefficiency in our administration and this has spoiled the investment climate.” The incentives included income tax exemptions up to five years, a 90% reduction in business taxes up to 10 years and tax exemptions on imported machinery and raw materials. The government also guaranteed that no foreign owned businesses would be nationalized.
• The operation license of Air Siam was revoked after the airline was found to have repeatedly violated conditions in the permit. The Ministry of Communications announced that the Civil Aviation Board had studied the issue very carefully and took into consideration the national economy, foreign relations, the country’s reputation and public safety before making the decision. Air Siam was established in 1965 under the name Varan Air-Siam by Prince Varananda Dhavaj. Air Siam declared bankruptcy in 1976 and Thai Airways International took over the airline’s debt and remaining fleet.
• M.C. Princess Vibhavadi Rangsit, 56, Private Secretary to Her Majesty the Queen, was fatally wounded while flying in an army helicopter over communist infested Wiang Sa district of Surat Thani province. She was on the way to deliver supplies to the Border Patrol Police (BPP) on behalf of the royal family. While in flight a broadcast came over the helicopter radio which said two BPP officers had been wounded by a landmine. The Princess ordered the flight to be diverted to pick up the wounded men. The chopper took heavy ground fire as it flew at a low altitude and the Princess was hit and gravely wounded. The helicopter was also hit and forced to make an emergency landing at the Wat Bong Son school, where the Princess was transferred to another chopper. She died en route to Surat Thani provincial hospital.
• Interior Minister Samak Sundaravej escaped assassination after a group of assailants fired
three M72 rockets at his Mercedes, two of which exploded. Gunfire from automatic rifles riddled the interior of the Mercedes, which was transporting the interior minister from the Channel 8 studios at night. The attack occurred about 100 metres from the TV station. Two people were arrested shortly after the attack but were released after police determined they weren’t involved. The involvement of communist insurgents was also ruled out and police focused the ensuing investigation on political motives.
• General Chalard Hiranyasiri and about 300 soldiers attached to the 9th Army Division, reportedly dressed as monks, staged a short-lived coup. They seized Internal Security Operation Command (ISOC) headquarters at Suan Ruen, Radio Thailand and three military installations in Bangkok. Chalard installed a revolutionary council from Suan Ruen and broadcast an announcement ordering all battalion and division commanders in Thailand to join in the coup.
• However, top military commanders loyal to the government led by Defence Minister Admiral Sangad Chaloryu aired their own broadcast on TV Channel 5 urging the public not to listen to the rebels and assured the nation that the government had not been overthrown. Sangad then surrounded Suan Ruen with tanks and troops and the rebels surrendered. Chalard tried to escape on a scheduled flight to Taiwan but China Airlines pilots refused to take off. Chalard was arrested and executed by firing squad for staging the coup and also for the death of Major General Aroon Thawathasin, commander of the First Army Region who was shot after he refused to surrender.
• PM Thanin, wielding absolute power provided by Article 21 of the provisional coup-installed constitution, ordered dissolution of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and the Bangkok Metropolitan Assembly, thus ending long-standing conflicts between the two elected bodies.
• Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) was dissolved. SEATO was founded in February 1955 with its headquarters in Bangkok and had eight member nations: Australia, France, New Zealand, Pakistan (withdrew in 1973), Philippines, Thailand, United Kingdom and United States. Its stated purpose was to prevent the spread of communism in the region.
• Heavily armed Khmer Rouge forces assisted by Thai insurgents trained by the Khmer-backed Angka Siam (Siam Organization) raided three Thai villages in Ta Phraya district of Prachinburi province, just inside the Thai border. The intruders killed 29 Thai citizens ‒ five women, 14 children, one BPP sergeant and nine militiamen who fought with a small BPP unit based in the area. The three villages were torched by the attackers and many buildings, including a field hospital, were destroyed.
• Several people were injured after a bomb exploded near a royal ceremony presided over by King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit, who together with Princess Sirindhorn and Princess Chulabhorn were handing out awards to principals of Muslim pondok schools. No royals were harmed, but according to newspaper accounts almost 50 people were injured. The ceremony, which continued without interruption, was held at Elephant Pavilion in Yala’s Muang district and was attended by about 10,000 people.
• Charges ranging from murder to treason were lodged against 18 former students and other activists arrested during the crackdown at Thammasat University on October 6, 1976. The 18 were ordered before a military tribunal on charges of communist activities, treason, rioting, resisting arrest, murder and illegal possession of firearms. Six were charged with lése-majesté. One of those charged was secretary-general of the former National Student Centre of Thailand Sutham Saengprathum.
• Police arrested a group of southerners, among them three escaped convicts, for the attempt on Thai royals’ lives at the ceremony in Muang Yala in September.
• Top military commanders under the command of Admiral Sangad Chaloryu staged a coup and removed the government of PM Thanin. The subsequently formed Revolutionary Council abrogated the 1976 constitution and lifted restrictions on the press. In a broadcast statement after the coup Sangad explained that the branches of the three armed services and the Royal Thai Police had found it necessary to seize power because of the disunity, divisiveness, and lack of public cooperation under the Thanin government.
• General Kriangsak Chomanand, a professional soldier widely credited for defusing the long-running communist insurgency in northern Thailand, became the 15th Thai Prime Minister. He also held the position of interior minister.
• In an announcement made simultaneously in Bangkok and Hanoi, Thailand and Vietnam officially normalized relations. The two countries agreed to set up embassies in their respective capitals in January 1978.
• On the occasion of his 50th birthday, the King conferred the titles of ‘Somdej Phra’, the highest rank of prince or princess, and ‘Maha Chakri’, meaning the Great Chakri, on Princess Sirindhorn. The royal announcement was made at the Amarin Vinichai Throne Hall and followed a few weeks later by a ceremony held at Government House.
• Thailand and Vietnam signed an aviation pact as well as an agreement to foster economic and technical cooperation in a key step towards the normalization of relations. PM Kriangsak and Vietnamese Foreign Minister Nguyen Duy Trinh agreed to a speed up the exchange of ambassadors and HM the King granted an audience to Trinh.
• Laos released 15 Thai citizens who had been detained in the country and handed them to officials of the Thai embassy in Laos. Most of the detainees were former employees of the US embassy in Laos who had been arrested in 1975 on suspicion they were spying for the CIA.
• The government imposed a ban on the import of a number of ‘luxury goods’ in order to reduce the trade deficit. Included on the list of banned goods were foreign-assembled vehicles, leather goods, marble and porcelain and some food items. After the sudden announcement prices on the banned items immediately skyrocketed.
• Thailand and the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot agreed to resume formal trade and exchange ambassadors. Thai Foreign Minister Upadit Pachariyangkun returned from a ‘fence-mending trip’ to Cambodia and said the two countries would ‘forget past misunderstanding and normalize relations’. The minister also said Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary had accepted an invitation to visit Thailand.
• Two males and one female member of the Indian-based Ananda Marga sect were arrested in Bangkok on suspicion of planning to bomb the Australian embassy. It was believed that the action was designed to protest Australia’s ban on Ananda Marga members entering the country. Thai police found 1.25 kilograms of high-powered explosives, battery cells, fuses and ignition caps in possession of those arrested.
• Bangkok and other parts of Thailand were without electricity following an unexplained blackout that extended from Chiang Mai in the North to Hat Yai in the South. The power outage lasted up to nine hours in some places, disrupting communications and temporarily crippling Bangkok’s water system.
• Thai immigration laws were relaxed to allow foreign tourists to stay longer. Under the new regulations visitors from most countries could stay up to 60 days upon arrival and could extend the initial visa for an additional 30 days. Previously tourists were only granted a 30-day visa on arrival.
• The Ministry of Industry gave permission to Mercedes Benz to assemble vehicles in Thailand. The company agreed to meet all government requirements, including that its assembly workforce must include a minimum of 25 percent local hires.
• The ‘Thammasat 18’ were freed from prison after the National Assembly passed an Amnesty Bill to pardon them. Student leader Sutham Saengprathum thanked PM Kriangsak for allowing the pardon. After their release, the PM cooked breakfast for the group at his house.
• Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University in Muang Thong Thani in Nonthaburi province was officially established under the royal charter as the country’s eleventh state university. The King bestowed the university name in honor of King Prajadhipok (Rama VII). It was the first university in Southeast Asia to use a distance teaching/learning system.
• The Thai five-baht coin was demonetized due to counterfeiting issues. Many businesses refused to accept the nine-sided coin after several counterfeits were discovered. About 480 million baht worth of the coins was in circulation at the time.
• Senior Chinese Vice-president Deng Xiaoping made a five-day visit to Thailand. He was welcomed by thousands of Thai-Chinese when he arrived at Don Muang airport. On the first day of his stay, Deng attended the ordination of Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Deng was the highest level Chinese official to visit Thailand since diplomatic relations between the two countries were established in 1975.
• Lieutenant General Pin Thamasri, Fourth Army Region Commander, was made commander in charge of suppressing the outlawed Communist Party of Malaysia in the South of Thailand. General Prem Tinsulanonda said that the appointment of Pin would improve the military’s capability to crush the communist guerrillas in the area.
• Thailand closed its border with Cambodia after Vietnamese forces toppled Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime, triggering a mass exodus of refugees.
• Nai Lert, the oldest bus company in Thailand, closed down its remaining four routes after serving Bangkok passengers for 90 years.
• PM Kriangsak slashed duties on
foreign films from 30 baht to 15 baht per meter. The PM came to the conclusion that reducing the tax would bring more foreign films to Thailand and “help make Thai films better by making them aware of stiff competition.” At the same time, however, the PM announced a plan to impose a quota on foreign films in order to make local film producers happy.
• Communist guerrillas began surrendering to the Thai government in large numbers after suffering heavy casualties. According to the government, in the previous four months 231 guerrillas had been
killed and about 67
captured. Many guerrillas surrendered in the South after one of their top leaders, Chitr Chongchit, gave
himself up to the Royal Thai Army. In the Northeast the communists were seriously weakened because they could no longer count on support from the ousted Khmer Rouge regime.
• A new computerized traffic-control system caused massive traffic jams throughout Bangkok when it began operations. The new system, installed at 48 capital junctions, had apparently been successful during testing.
• About 600 homes on both sides of the Chao Phraya River were demolished and more than 300 trees along South Sathorn Road were cut down to prepare the way for Taksin Bridge. When residents asked why the trees couldn’t be moved elsewhere one official said there was no budget for it.
• Bangkok was almost completely paralyzed after a heavy downpour on June 16. The heaviest rainfall in 25 years flooded shops and houses and brought traffic to a standstill. Sukhumvit Road was one of the hardest hit areas.
• Fifty-one people were killed and 184 injured when a southbound freight train hit a city-bound passenger train at Taling Chan railway station west of Bangkok.
• Illegal trade along the Thai-Cambodian border flourished as thousands of Thai merchants offered their goods to Khmer customers every day at three popular markets. Most of the goods were resold inside Cambodia.
• Seven hundred soundproofed public phone booths were installed in Bangkok by the Telephone Organization of Thailand (TOT). TOT asked the people to protect the boxes against criminals who attempted to break open the equipment and steal coins.
‘Thai Tourism Year’ was kicked off with a plan to ease visa restrictions on natives of Hong Kong, Taiwan and Malaysia. Malaysian citizens holding border passes were given permission to travel 50 km into southern Thailand instead of the previous limit of 25 km. Hong Kong residents were required to put up a 20,000 baht guarantee when visiting Thailand.
• PM Kriangsak resigned less than three years after he seized power to avoid a no-confidence vote brought on by the threat of mob violence over rising oil prices. The resignation paved the way for RTA chief Prem Tinsulanonda to take the reins of power.
• Thailand’s first labour court was launched by PM Prem. The Central Labour Court only had jurisdiction in and around Bangkok, but nonetheless gave hope to hundreds of thousands of workers facing unfair working conditions.
• Forty of 48 people aboard an Avro 748 turboprop died after the plane nosedived and crashed in bad weather on a routine flight from Khon Kaen. The disaster occurred after the plane began its landing approach about 13 km north of Don Muang airport.
• The Thai Olympic Committee voted unanimously not to send athletes to the Moscow Olympics, saying the athletes were not up to standard. Thailand denied that the decision was related to US President Jimmy Carter’s call for a boycott of the Olympics to protest Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan.
• Interior Minister Prathuang Kiratibutr instructed immigration officers to deny entry to travelers who looked like ‘hippies’ According
to ministerial directives, anyone sporting a singlet, waistcoat and no vest, shorts worn in an ‘impolite manner’, slippers or silk trousers, or who had long, untidy hair and a ‘dirty looking’ appearance, was most likely a hippie and should be refused entry.
• Suspected southern separatists staged a series of coordinated bomb attacks in Bangkok that injured about 40 people. Bombs rocked two railway stations, one bus terminal and one bus full of passengers. A fifth bomb planted at a cinema in Thonburi was found and defused by the bomb squad shortly before it was set to explode. The acronym PULO was inscribed on the bomb. Police reportedly received a warning from the southern separatist group before the attacks. PULO is an acronym for the southern separatist group the Pattani United Liberation Organization.
• The country’s first automatic direct-dialing long distance telephone service went into operation, allowing people in Bangkok and adjacent areas to call directly to provinces in the North without having to go through an operator.
• Fourteen people were injured when a hand grenade exploded in the Thonburi cinema where a bomb was defused in June. Another unexploded hand grenade found inside the cinema bore the PULO acronym. There was speculation, however, that the cinema had been targeted after the owner refused to bow to extortion demands.
Thai troops smashed a major stronghold of the CPT, killing 16 insurgents and capturing nine. Shortly after the camp was seized 136 communist guerrillas turned themselves over to the Thai military.
• Seksan Prasertkul, a former student activist, left the jungle where he had spent years hiding out and surrendered to authorities in Uthai Thani province. Seksan was a leading figure in the October 14, 1973 student uprising that led to the overthrow of the Thanom-Praphas-Narong military regime. Seksan refused to betray his comrades by giving their location to the Thai authorities. He said his reasons for surrendering were ideological conflict with other communists, the ‘lack of democracy’ within the CPT and frequent conflicts with top people in the party.
• Major floods in Bangkok and upcountry prompted Deputy Prime Minister Boonchu Rojanastien to call for a long-term national flood prevention plan. Damage was estimated in the hundreds of millions of baht and schools were closed for over a month in Bangkok. Bangkok Governor Chaowas Sudlabha was criticized for failing to deliver on his promise to protect the city from flooding.
• At least 24 people were killed and around 360 injured following explosions at an ammunitions plant in Bang Sue district of Bangkok. The plant was operated by the RTA’s Ordinance Department and produced anti-tank rockets. Two rows of wooden shop houses near the plant were destroyed and it was reported that windows were shattered in houses eight km away. A mushroom-shaped cloud was seen from all over Bangkok. A military official called it the worst accident of its kind in Thai history. The cause of the explosions wasn’t clear, but sabotage wasn’t ruled out.
• Siam Park City amusement and water park was opened in Khan Na Yao district of Bangkok. It was the largest entertainment venue of its kind in Southeast Asia. The 300-rai, 500-million baht park encompasses a huge pool with artificial waves and a 21-meter-high slide.
• Thai troops captured the CPT headquarters in the Northeast. The location was used to direct terrorist activities in 16 provinces for about 11 years. The Thai military also took over more than 50 CPT camps in Kalasin, Nakhon Phanom and Sakhon Nakhon provinces.
1981 was the year the Bang Lang Dam in Bannang Sata district of Yala province was completed; Doi Suthep-Pui National Park in Chiang Mai province was established, along with at least a dozen more national parks throughout Thailand. The RTA continued to dismantle the CPT, seizing a huge arsenal that included 5,500 claymore mines and other explosives as well as medical equipment.
• Electricity rates went up in Bangkok by 15%. It was the third rate hike in 12 months. It was done quietly in order to avoid the kind of political fallout that plagued the previous administration.
• Thirayuth Boonmee, the former student leader who fled Bangkok after the bloody October 6, 1976 events, left the jungles of the Phuphan mountains in northeastern Sakhon Nakhon province and surrendered to the military. He was joined by 54 more former activists and communists. Treason charges against Thirayuth and 11 other activists led to the uprising which toppled the regime of Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn.
• A Garuda jet with 54 passengers and nine crew members was hijacked on a domestic flight and commandeered to Don Muang airport. Armed with hand grenades and guns, the hijackers originally demanded that the Indonesian government release 20 political prisoners, but after two days demanded the release of a further 84 prisoners. They also wanted a DC-10 aircraft and safe passage to Sri Lanka. After three days Thai and Indonesian commandos mounted a siege that ended with a gun battle between them and the hijackers, who identified themselves as ‘soldiers in a holy Muslim war’. Three hijackers were killed and two were captured in the siege. One child hostage was killed and 10 hostages were injured during the operation. Earlier one passenger was shot while attempting to flee the plane.
• Military officers led by General Sant Chitpatima, deputy commander-in-chief of the RTA staged a coup on the first day of the month, dubbed the ‘April Fool’s Coup’. PM Prem sought refuge at Second Army headquarters in Nakhon Ratchasima, where he was joined by the royal family, cabinet ministers and provincial governors. The bloodless coup was led by disgruntled mid-level army officers known as ‘Young Turks’. The coup failed as thousands of troops loyal to Prem entered Bangkok early in the morning on April 3 and took control of the capital. One plotter was killed and another injured. Several more surrendered to Prem’s forces. Another 155 former military men were arrested. General Sant fled to Burma.
• On the anniversary of the coronation of the King the government granted pardons to 52 suspects in April’s failed coup. General Sant wasn’t named in the amnesty. PM Prem mentioned the need for political stability and unity in the country as a reason why the amnesty came so soon after the coup. About 30 coup plotters went to Prem’s residence and apologized to him. General Sant returned from self-exile in Burma and then refused to comment on the coup or following events.
• The King presided over a ceremony to activate the hydroelectric generators of the just-completed Srinakarind Dam, named after Princess Srinakarind. The dam on the Khwae Yai River in Kanchanaburi province is 140 metres high and 610 metres long.
• Three bombs exploded at three shopping centres in Bangkok, injuring about 40 people. An anonymous caller with a southern accent claimed that the three bombs were the work of the PULO. One official said that the bombings were intended to gain foreign support for the southern separatists. The three blasts occurred in the space of a few minutes and sent shoppers fleeing for their lives.
• ISOC reported that 1,308 communist insurgents surrendered to the authorities between October 1980 and September 1981. In the previous 12 months around 850 communist insurgents called it quits.
• Interior Minister Sitthi Jirarote declared ‘war’ on vice and illegal activities, ordering the police to reduce crime and eradicate illegal gambling within one month.
• The National Security Council announced a campaign to eradicate opium cultivation in hill tribe villages. The plan involved various steps including treatment for opium addicts. The government also offered to provide farmers with seeds for alternative crops.