Chulalongkorn Student Campaign Against Japanese Merchandise
The first student movement that affected the whole country took place in 1971 when the Centre of Students in Thailand launched their campaign against Japanese merchandise because they considered that Japanese economical domination was a major threat to the country. At that time, Thailand’s economic deficit with Japan was very high. The student movement coincided with the government’s policy to narrow the economic gap with Japan and, at the same time, promote the use of Thai products. A large number of Chulalongkorn students took part in the campaign by, encouraging people to use coarse white cotton fabric made in Thailand to make their clothes instead of Japanese manufactured materials. As well as displaying posters and organizing discussions as part of their campaign, Chulalongkorn students supplied coarse white, cotton shirts for sale on the campus and encouraged their fellow students to wear them. One important campaigner was Therayuth Boonmee, an Engineering student. There were seamstresses who were willing to make short-sleeved white cotton shirts for 20 Baht each and long-sleeved white cotton shirts for 25 Baht each. That was extremely inexpensive. The campaign made a number of Thais realize the importance of using Thai products and demonstrated how student movements started to play a leading role in public protest that has continued to today.
Though the opposition to Japanese merchandise was not as successful as expected, what was more important was the way in which the students became unified and forced the mass media to start publicizing the activities of the Centre of Students in Thailand instilling a sense of patriotism among students.