An Unfinished Past
Assassination and the 1974 Land Rent Control Act in Northern Thailand
Author: Tyrell Haberkorn
This article examines the struggle for land tenancy reform and the assassination of Farmers' Federation of Thailand (FFT) leaders in northern Thailand during the period of democratic politics between 14 October 1973 and 6 October 1976 as unresolved, ambiguous, and linked events in the recent Thai past. During the 1973–1976 period, farmers became new political and legal subjects as they fought to pass and then implement the 1974 Land Rent Control Act. Drawing on provincial archival records, the author contextualizes how and why tenancy became a contentious issue between farmers and landlords beginning in the 1950s and then examines the anxious and violent backlash with which their organizing in the 1970s was met by state, para-state, right-wing, and landholding elites. The author interrogates the conditions and effects of the assassinations by writing about the life and death of one of the leaders of the FFT, Intha Sribunruang. The denials by a range of state officials of the political nature of Intha and other FFT leaders’ murders underscore both the importance of the FFT’s work and the necessity to critically evaluate the assassinations. The author concludes by arguing that the lack of resolution surrounding the struggle for tenancy reform and the assassinations of FFT leaders continues to resonate in present-day politics. An Appendix to the article offers the first English-language list of the FFT leaders known to have been killed or victimized by violence between 1974 and 1979.