Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn (August 11, 1912 -June 16, 2004, Thai ถนอม กิตติขจร) was a military dictator of Thailand. A staunch anti-Communist, Thanom oversaw a decade of military rule in Thailand from 1963 to 1973, until public protests which exploded into violence forced him to step down. His return from exile in 1976 sparked protests which led to a massacre of demonstrators, followed by a military coup.
In February 1953, he led the suppression of a rebellion, and was rewarded with a promotion to the rank of lieutenant-general. He represented Thailand at the ceremony to mark the end of the Korean War in July 1953 and was later promoted as Commander of the 1st Region Army.
He was appointed Deputy Cooperatives Minister in 1955. Thanom supported Sarit in his coup against the government of Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram, and was subsequently appointed Defence Minister in Pote Sarasin's puppet regime in 1957.
In subsequent years, Thanom consolidated his power base as the 2nd military leader behind Sarit. In 1958, he was appointed General and became Prime Minister, Defence Minister, and Army Commander-in-Chief. He was the Prime Minister for 9 months. The following year he was replaced by Sarit as prime minister and was instead appointed Deputy Prime Minister, Defence Minister, and Armed Forces Deputy Supreme Commander in the new junta.
Thanom reappointed himself Prime Minister in February 1969 after general elections had been completed. Then, in November 1971, he staged a coup against his own government, citing the need to suppress communist infiltration. He dissolved Parliament and appointed himself Chairman of the National Executive Council, and served as a caretaker government for one year. He appointed himself Prime Minister for a fourth time, in December 1972, while also serving as Defence and Foreign Ministers. He, along with his son, Colonel Narong, and Narong's father-in-law Field Marshal Prahass Charusathien became known as the "Three Tyrants".
Public discontent grew, as well as demands for a general election. Student-led demands for a return to constitutional government, the so-called "14 October 1973 uprising", caused three days of violence and the downfall of his regime. Thanom and the other two "Tyrants" left for exile in the United States and Singapore. His departure was followed by a restoration of a democratic administration in Thailand.
Thanom soon left the monkhood but never took a role in politics again. Later in his life, he made an effort to rehabilitate his tarnished image and recover properties that had been seized when he was overthrown.
In March 1999, Thanom was nominated to become a member of the honorary Royal Guard by Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai, which was a highly controversial act. Thanom turned down the appointment.
Thanom died at the age of 92 on 16 June 2004 in Bangkok General Hospital, after suffering a stroke and a heart attack in January 2004. His medical expenses were paid by King Bhumibol Adulyadej. His cremation was held on 25 February 2007 at Wat Debsirin. Queen Sirikit presided over the cremation ceremony, lighting the royal flame on behalf of King Bhumibol. Princess Chulabhorn also presided.