The Case of Volunteer 8
Proof, Violence, and History in Thai Society
Author: Samson Lim
In March 1973, a villager working for a logging concession in Northeastern Thailand was shot and killed under mysterious circumstances. The story did not make the news and would likely have been forgotten if not for another, more sensational murder-suicide a few weeks later. Working through news reports in the country's number one daily about these two crimes, this article brings to light the understudied terror and violence that plagued parts of rural Thai society preceding the mass protests against a corrupt military government in October 1973. At the same time, it analyzes how information about that violence became known, verified, and accepted as true to an urban audience in Bangkok. Tackling the issues of violence and information together, the author links the relatively abstract concepts of "knowledge production" and "justice" in a tangible case study, showing that the form that information takes and the technologies that produce it play a key role in determining its factuality. The author concludes that in Thai society today, historical truth and social justice emerge through a contingent process of documentation; without documents there is no historical knowledge and no justice.