Teaching people how to fish is much better than giving them fish. NGOs need to continually improve their capacities to deal with issues and problems that can arise in their pursuit of liberal democratic goals. For this reason, we have been working with partner organisations to conduct capacity-building workshops exclusively for members of NGO networks. Such courses cover topics such as public speaking, moderator training and strategic planning. In 2008, our foundation launched a series of new capacity-building workshops focusing on information management and creation of websites, blogs and podcasts for effective dissemination of information and messages to target audiences.
Conflicts are common issues in almost any multi-ethnic society such as the deep south of Thailand where a significant number of citizens are Yawi-speaking Muslims.
Our foundation works with Think Centre Asia on conflict management workshops with the aim of providing young and working-age people with tools for dealing with cultural and religious differences so that they can live and work together peacefully.
Participants were taught, for example, win-win negotiation techniques and how to “argue” without getting into a fight. This project continued into 2008 with a series of training workshops on the same subject. The goal is mutual understanding among the people from different cultural and religious backgrounds in the southern border provinces, which is key to reducing conflicts and improving political stability in the region.
To complement this effort, we support the publication of the South See magazine that contains articles on the Islamic culture, Muslim practices and opinions of Muslim Thais on various social, economic and political issues. The South See editorial comprises students and university lectures as well as a former member of the now-defunct National Reconciliation Commission. First published in June 2007, the magazine aims to promote understanding of the Islamic culture and Muslim views in this predominantly Buddhist country.
In September 2007, we conducted the first training workshop on marketing strategies for housewives living in this restive region that investors fled after violence had erupted in 2004. The goal is to enable the locals to find alternative means of supporting themselves financially such as through forming a cooperative society.
In 2008, we will work with the Election Commission of Thailand in designing educational materials on political education for teachers and students at state schools. These materials include teachers’ guides, study materials for students, CDs, short movies on democracy, constitution, democratic practices, human rights and rule of law. The purpose is to give the Thai public basic knowledge about democracy, freedoms and individual rights that they need to know as citizens of a democratic society.
Meetings of IAF Alumni Members
We organise meetings of former participants to an IAF (the International Academy for Leadership)workshop one to three times a year.Such meetings offer IAF alumni members opportunities to meet, mingle and share ideas on the country’s social, economic and political issues. Sometimes, the meetings are stretched to one full day. On such occasions, the participants will have a chance to listen to a talk or join a discussion led by an expert either in the field of NGO, development, politics or economics.
At the requests of some partner organisations, we provide independent consultation for the benefit of improved democracy, increased respect for human rights and stronger presence of the rule of law, especially with regard to cultivating democratic attitudes, promoting transparency and increasing public accountability. Most recently, we have provided solicited advice on the establishment of a political development institute. This national think-tank will be run by the Election Commission of Thailand with the aim of promoting democracy and effective functioning of the country’s democratic system.
We work with a number of NGOs, academic institutions and occasionally with governmental agencies in providing educational workshops on democracy, rule of law, individual rights, voting practices, citizen participation in politics and several other related issues. We hold workshops for representatives from liberal NGOs so that they can conduct similar workshops for their members and target groups in their circles. We also conduct basic political education workshops for young people who will soon be eligible for voting so that they will be encouraged to exercise their rights and know what they should consider when deciding who to vote for.Raising Political Interest and Promoting Democracy among Young People
We realise the importance of youths as the future of the nation and the need to cultivate democratic values in their minds early in life. Therefore, every now and then we organise edutainment activities to increase their knowledge of democracy and to raise their interest in the nation’s political affairs.Our foundation has held an essay competition, poster design contest, two-day democracy training camps and democratic citizen training workshops.
These kinds of workshops have inspired young people to be politically active and to fulfill their role as citizens of the nation. As a result, a project such as Student Patrol, for example, has been created to allow young people to monitor and observe the voting and electoral process to promote clean and fair elections in the 23 December 2007 polls.
Seminars and Public Forums on Current Issues
Our foundation supports, among others, the Institute of Security and International Studies (ISIS) in organising academic seminars and public forums on current issues that affect the Thai populace and their neighbours. Politicians, academics, journalists, political analysts, economists and rights activists have been invited to discuss social, economic and political issues such as Thailand’s referendum on the draft 2007 charter and the role of the ASEAN on the occasion of the regional bloc’s 40th anniversary.
We also cooperate with the Thammasat University, the Chulalongkorn University, the Suan Dusit University and the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand in organising seminars and public debates on various issues of national importance.