THAILAND - After the bloody crackdown of October 14, 1973, many might have written off student political activism as a thing of the past. But 40 years on, recent student activities to serve the greater good suggest otherwise.
Residents appear impressed with the peaceful intervention of Khon Kaen University students to fight heavy-handed police tactics at a public hearing on the issuance of a gold-mining licence.
On September 8, dozens of students braved the rain and stepped forward with nothing but a collective "wai" to beg anti-riot police to allow anti-mining protesters to attend the hearing.
The authorities initially stood firm in denying the protesters access. The students relied on their non-aggressive and polite manner to ward off a potential confrontation.
They managed to persuade the anti-riot forces and protesters to reason with one another to resolve the tensions. Pictures of the student intervention quickly spread via social media and news outlets, winning public commendation.
Law student Chatupat Boonpatraksa said the intervention was just an example of the tradition of activism that has been kept alive and well by 10 successive graduating classes.
In Khon Kaen, the Dao Din group is at the forefront of carrying on the student movement, he said, proudly identifying himself as one of its members.
Dao Din activists take a keen interest in the plight of local people. They aim to tackle villagers' grievances, ensure justice and promote democracy.
Chatupat said he and other activists are very concerned that villagers have little say in their own livelihoods or the decision-making process for their community.
"Capitalists have always had their way in exploiting natural resources at the expense of villagers," he said.
In their recent activities, students played a vital role in championing the interests of villagers, he said.