CSEAS Lecture Series: Prasit Leepreecha

“Empowering the Margins: The Roles of NGOs Among Ethnic Highlanders in Thailand”

Prasit Leepreecha
Department of Social Science and Development,
Chiang Mai University

More than ten highland ethnic groups reside in north Thailand. These groups include some one million people. Generally referred to as “hill tribes,” these groups have long been perceived as primitive and dangerous others. Since the late 1950s, the Thai government began launching development programs geared towards solving the “hill tribe problem.” These top-down development programs have generally resulted in a situation where ethnic highlanders have become Thai at the cost of losing their ethnic identities. In addition, many ethnic highlanders continue to lack equal rights to citizenship, land ownership and management, educational opportunities, and other basic infrastructures. More recently, ethnic highlanders have developed their own grassroots movements to better address their situations and empower themselves. A number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) initiated by both outsiders and young ethnic leaders have played an important role in the development and advancement of these grassroots movements. In this talk, I discuss the historical development and roles of NGOs among ethnic highlanders in north Thailand throughout the past five decades. I argue that, in contrast to state agencies, NGOs have played crucial roles in empowering ethnic highlanders in the country. Apart from linking up with regional and international indigenous movements, a number of young highland ethnic leaders with NGO backgrounds have recently become elected members of Thailand’s House of Representatives where they aim to continue their efforts to bring awareness of their issues and concerns to the general public and national policy makers.

Friday, October 20
Capitol Room in the Holmes Student Center and Online (registration required for online attendance: https://niu-edu.zoom.us/.../tZAqcOuvrjMrEtG3bThtQqVxfOomG...)

Contact the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at cseas@niu.edu

Sponsored by the Thai Teaching and Research Fund

Dial-In Information


Friday, October 20, 2023 at 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM

Holmes Student Center, Capitol Room
600 Lucinda Ave, DeKalb, IL 60115

Event Type

Lectures, Presentations and Workshops


Arts and Culture, Research, Academics, Diversity

Target Audience

Students, Faculty and Staff, Alumni, General Public, Prospective Students





Center for Southeast Asian Studies
Contact Name

Rachael Skog

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