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The rise of the Octobrists: power and conflict among gormer left wing student activists in contemporary Thai politics

Lertchoosakul, Kanokrat (2012) The rise of the Octobrists: power and conflict among gormer left wing student activists in contemporary Thai politics. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Since the early 1990s, the prominent role of 'Octobrists' – former left wing student activists from the 1970s – has become increasingly evident in parliamentary and extra-parliamentary politics. Some Octobrists have played leading or supporting roles in key moments of political transition, such as the 1992 urban middle-class movement for democracy, various social movements throughout the mid-1990s, the political reform process of the late 1990s, and the rise of the Thais Love Thais (Thai Rak Thai) government under Thaksin Shinawatra in 2001. But over the course of the past ten years, these former student activists have become increasingly divided, amidst the protracted conflict between 'Yellow shirt' (anti-Thaksin) and 'Red Shirt' (pro-Thaksin) forces in Thai politics. Octobrists have defended opposing political stances and severely attacked one another across the political divide. This thesis examines why the Octobrists have managed to remain a significant force in Thai politics, despite the collapse of left wing politics in the late 1970s, and why they have experienced deepening internal divisions and a crisis of legitimacy over the course of the past decade. This thesis argues that the Octobrists successfully exploited shifts in the structure of political opportunities over the 1980s and 1990s which allowed them to overcome constraints on their involvement in politics. These former left wing student activists successfully made use of the political skills, social networks, and progressive language which they had developed and refined since the 1970s, in order to gain access to new channels of political influence and power. Above all, they managed to reframe their earlier history as leftist failures and to craft a new political identity as 'Octobrists', as heroic fighters for democracy and against authoritarian rule in the 1970s. In examining the rise and deepening of conflicts among the Octobrists, moreover, this thesis traces the shifts in political environment which accompanied the ascendancy and entrenchment of the Thaksin government and the rise of antiThaksin mobilisation over the past decade, which undermined the loose unity among Octobrists and created new sources of tension and conflict in their midst. The thesis also shows how the notion of 'Octobrists' shifted from an effective rubric for forging a shared identity among former student activists to a rhetorical device for conflict and contestation among former comrades-in-arms.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2012 Kanokrat Lertchoosakul
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
Sets: Departments > Government
Supervisor: Sidel, John T.

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