Congratulations to Prof. Emeritus Thongchai Winichakul for his achievement winning the George McT. Kahin Prize from the Southeast Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies with his latest book Moments of Silence: The Unforgetting of the October 6, 1976, Massacre in Bangkok. Moments of Silence focuses on the silence that surrounds the October 6 massacre. Silence, the book argues, is not forgetting. Rather it signals an inability to forget or remember—or to articulate a socially meaningful memory. It is the “unforgetting,” the liminal domain between remembering and forgetting. Historian Thongchai Winichakul, a participant in the events of that day, gives the silence both a voice and a history by highlighting the factors that contributed to the unforgetting amidst changing memories of the massacre over the decades that followed. They include shifting political conditions and context, the influence of Buddhism, the royal-nationalist narrative of history, the role played by the monarchy as moral authority and arbiter of justice, and a widespread perception that the truth might have devastating ramifications for Thai society. The unforgetting impacted both victims and perpetrators in different ways. It produced a collective false memory of an incident that never took place, but it also produced silence that is filled with hope and counter-history.
The George McT. Kahin Prize of the Association for Asian Studies is given biennially to an outstanding scholar of Southeast Asian studies from any discipline or country specialization to recognize distinguished scholarly work on Southeast Asia beyond the author’s first book. The award was initiated in 2007 at the behest of the Cornell University Center for Southeast Asian Studies, friends and students of George Kahin, and the Southeast Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies to honor the contributions of George McT. Kahin to the field of Southeast Asian Studies.
Professor Winichakul shared the Kahin Prize with our very own alumnus John Roosa whose book Buried History: The Anticommunist Massacre of 1965-1966 in Indonesia was also honored at the same time by the Association for Asian Studies. Significantly, Roosa’s book was published by the University of Wisconsin Press as the first book in the new series, Critical Human Rights, a series edited by Tyrell Haberkorn, Scott Straus, and Steve Stern. Congratulations to the authors and everyone involved in these books.