Jun 1, 2011

Holiday in Cambodia

The lifeless body of a hanged student outside Thammasat University, Bangkok, Thailand (1976).

The Massacre of 6 October 1976, was an attack on students and protesters that occurred on the campus of Thammasat University and at Sanam Luang in Bangkok. Students from various universities were demonstrating against the return to Thailand of Field Marshall Thanom Kittikachorn, a former military ruler. By the official count, fourty-six people (maybe hunderds) died and in the attack, during which protesters were shot, beaten and their bodies mutilated. Thousands were arrested.

Associated Press photographer Neal Ulevich covered the Vietnam War for five years. But nothing he saw in the jungle prepared him for the morning of Oct. 6, when right-wing students attack left-wing students near the university. "When I got there, it was getting more and more violent. Paramilitary troops heavily armed with recoilless rifles showed up. The left-wing students were not armed and were not shooting back. They took refuge in the university buildings.

"Tremendous volleys of automatic weapons were fired across the soccer fields into the classrooms. There were bodies all over, glass breaking. There was no place to take cover. I was very scared."

Finally, the left-wing students surrender. Ulevich heads for the gates, anxious to get his pictures back to his office. "I saw some commotion in the trees. I walked down there and I saw a body hanging. He was certainly dead, but the crowd was so enraged that a man was hitting the body on the head with a folding chair. I stood there to see if anybody was looking at me. Nobody was. I took a few frames and walked away." That was when the picture of the post had taken. The photographer won the Pulitzer prize in 1977 for this photograph.

In the end, an irony, as Neal Ulevich says: "When I won the Pulitzer, the Bangkok papers noted it on Page One. They were very proud that a photographer from Bangkok had won the Pulitzer. They didn't show the pictures."

Dead Kennedys use this photo for their second single called "Holiday in Cambodia" that released in May 1980. The title track attacks both Eastern totalitarianism and Western complacency. The song's lyrics offer a satirical view of young, self-righteous Americans (So you been to school/For a year or two/And you know you’ve seen it all/In daddy’s car/Thinkin’ you’ll go far...) and contrast such a lifestyle with a brutal depiction of the Pol Pot regime of Cambodia (Well you’ll work harder/With a gun in your back/For a bowl of rice a day/Slave for soldiers/Till you starve/Then your head is skewered on a stake).


  1. its so tragic when i see people around the killing action just stare at the craziest thing