Consent, Repression, and Emerging Student Activism in Northeastern Thailand

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Student movements in the mid-1970s pushed Thailand toward democratization, but not without great cost. Perceived threats to the Thai monarchy and legitimacy of the military government led to brutal acts of state violence and repression, culminating in the 1976 Thammasat Massacre. More than forty years later, student groups have emerged to protest environmental, social justice, and political rights violations—also under the threat of state repression. Using Gene Sharp’s consent of power theory, which suggests that political power resides within individuals and rulers derive their power from the consent of their subjects, we approach the current political climate in Thailand through the actions of the Dao Din group, a network of students originally from the Faculty of Law at Khon Kaen University. Through a review of primary sources, secondary literature, and a series of unstructured interviews with student activists from Northeastern Thailand, we argue that the contemporary student movement has helped undermine popular legitimacy of Thai coup makers. However, mass mobilization and dissemination of political messaging has remained a challenge due to the severity of state repression. Despite these difficulties, we argue that the Thai junta’s repression tactics have not been completely successful in eroding the political power of student-led movements.