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The Asia Foundation has worked in Thailand since 1954. The Foundation promotes peaceful conflict
resolution, encourages citizen engagement in the political process, and supports innovative programs
that will build more responsive and transparent systems of governance throughout the country. As
Thailand’s political context has changed dramatically in recent years, the Foundation places a priority
on strengthening effective institutions of democracy and resolving conflict in the three Muslim-dominat-
ed southernmost provinces.

RESOLVING CONFLICT IN THE SOUTH                      schools (pondok) so that students will have a
Thailand faces violent unrest in the southern        better chance of advancing economically and
border provinces of Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat    socially within Thai society. To enable Muslim
where the population is predominately Muslim.        citizens to interact with Thai officialdom using
While the causes of conflict are complex, The        their own Pattani-Malay dialect, the Foundation
Asia Foundation recognizes that identity, educa-     supported the publication of Thailand’s first             THAILAND
tion, economic opportunity, and participation in     Pattani-Malay/Thai/Malay dictionary and the
local decision-making are the basis from which       development of additional complimentary lan-
                                                     guage tools for government officials and NGOs.           Many of The Asia
peaceful development will emerge.
                                                                                                           Foundation’s programs
                                                                                                              empower women
Situated between Buddhist Thailand and mostly        Distrust of the central Thai government is high in
                                                                                                            throughout Thailand.
Muslim Malaysia, these border states have a          these three provinces and the Foundation works
cultural and linguistic identity that is distinct    to combat impunity by improving the use of
from mainstream society in both countries. This      forensic science at crime scenes through the edu-         In the mountains
unique identity has long been threatened by Thai     cation of law enforcement officials and medical              of the north,
ethno-centric government policies and alienation     practitioners. Working closely with the Muslim        Foundation-supported
                                                     Attorney Center (MAC) in the south, the                 trainings enable hill-
among the Muslim community has been a major
                                                     Foundation has also set up a unique legal aid pro-     tribe women to enter
driving factor for militancy. In keeping with the
                                                     gram known as the Southern Paralegal Advocacy         the political arena and
government’s evolving policy to allow Thai-
                                                     Network (SPAN). Based on its successful mobile            run for elections.
Malays in the south greater cultural space, the
Foundation supports locally-driven efforts to        legal aid clinic for people affected by the Indian
                                                     Ocean tsunami of 2004, SPAN is a network of           In the troubled south-
preserve this cultural identity and reduce the
                                                     paralegal volunteers trained to provide basic legal     ernmost provinces,
motivation for armed insurgency.
                                                     services within their communities and throughout       the Foundation helps
                                                     the southernmost provinces. In addition to assist-     widows and women
Foundation programs in the south are designed
                                                     ing MAC lawyers and Thai-Malay citizens on             victims of violence to
to create equal rights and opportunities for
                                                     specific legal issues and cases, SPAN paralegals      seek legal recourse and
Muslim citizens. The Foundation has partnered
                                                     provide civic and legal education trainings           make their voices heard
with southern educational institutes to reform the
                                                     through workshops held in schools and commu-            in the public arena.
secular curriculum of private Islamic secondary
nity halls, as well as in prisons. Not long after      in November 2009 and is already receiving a                          The Asia Foundation is
SPAN was established in early 2009, it received a      record number of call-ins from public viewers.                       a private, non-profit,
pan-Asian award for being part of “a new genera-                                                                            non-governmental
tion of human rights defenders.”                       SUPPORTING POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT                                     organization. Through
                                                       Since Thailand’s military coup in September 2006,                    its programs, the
Programs such as these lead to reconciliation by       The Asia Foundation has worked toward reestab-                       Foundation builds
establishing social, legal, and political conditions   lishing responsive institutions of democratic                        leadership, improves
that can address the immediate grievances of the       governance. The Foundation assists Thai reform-
Thai-Malay population. In addition, the                                                                                     policies, and strengthens
                                                       ers within government and civil society to further
Foundation works with a prestigious Thai think-                                                                             institutions to foster
                                                       inform debate on constitutional reforms and
tank to conceive and advocate a peace plan that        rebuild accountability mechanisms. Working with
                                                                                                                            greater openness and
could establish the framework for lasting peace in     government officials and civil society leaders, the                  shared prosperity in the
the south.                                             Foundation aims to ensure the participation of                       Asia-Pacific region. It is
                                                       civil society in drafting key legislation that will                  funded by contributions
ENABLING CIVIC PARTICIPATION                           promote democratic values and processes. To                          from corporations,
In cooperation with the World Bank and                 ensure that opinions from Thai citizens were                         foundations, individuals,
partner organizations, The Asia Foundation             represented, the Foundation conducted a nation-                      and governmental
designed a unique participatory training program       wide opinion poll in 2009 that gauged the                            organizations in the
called Civic Participation in Local Governance         national mood toward election reform, participa-
                                                                                                                            U.S., Europe, Canada,
(CPLG) to provide the tools, skills, and encour-       tion in politics, amending the constitution, and
                                                                                                                            Australia, and Asia, and
agement needed for citizens to actively participate    more. Published in Thai and English, the
in local governance. Attended by government            completed survey enables lawmakers, politicians,                     an annual appropriation
officials, civic leaders, and representatives of       academics, and the media to better assess the                        from the U.S. Congress.
grassroots NGOs, CPLG workshops cover topics           process of democratization and measure Thai
such as community rights, ordinances, and              voters’ knowledge of and attitudes toward democ-
development plans.                                     racy and political reform.

With assistance from Foundation staff, groups          Additionally, the Foundation works to cultivate
like the National Counter Corruption                   young leaders from marginalized groups across
Commission and the Election Commission have            Thailand, including tribal minorities in the north,
adapted the CPLG curriculum for use in their           those at risk of human trafficking in the northeast,
own programs. CPLG meetings are also tailored          and the Thai-Muslim population in the south.
to the varied circumstances of communities             The Foundation has held civic education work-
throughout Thailand. In the north, the                 shops for hundreds of marginalized youth.
Foundation supported a local NGO using CPLG            Workshop participants have been supported to
trainings to boost the political involvement of        conduct a questionnaire of youth needs and
hill-tribe women. In the northeast, CPLG               design and implement youth-run projects. The
workshops have dealt with specific environmental       program seeks to establish a new generation of                       465 California Street,
problems such as water management and the              democratic leaders who will have the knowledge                       9th Floor
                                                                                                                            San Francisco, CA 94104 USA
disposal of hazardous waste. In the southernmost       and skills to assert their rights and participate in                 Tel: (415) 982-4640
provinces, CPLG meetings provide a much-need-          the political and social transformation of their                     Fax: (415) 392-8863
ed forum for open discussion and the CPLG              communities.
content has been adapted as a radio script so that                                                                          WASHINGTON, DC
                                                                                                                            1779 Massachusetts Ave., NW
community radio stations can broadcast it to an        In Thailand, The Asia Foundation’s programs are also funded by the   Suite 815
                                                                                                                            Washington, D.C. 20036 USA
even wider audience.                                   United States Agency for International Development, the U.S.
                                                                                                                            Tel: (202) 588-9420
                                                       Department of State Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and           Fax: (202) 588-9409
The Foundation recently supported the develop-         Labor, the Royal Netherlands Embassy, and the United Nations
ment and production of a weekly television talk        Democracy Fund.                                                      THAILAND
                                                                                                                            Q. House Convent Bldg.
show. Called Let’s Talk Rights, the Thai-language                                                                           Floor 6D
show features debates between policymakers,                                                                                 38 Convent Road, Silom
                                                                                                                            Bangkok 10500, Thailand
government officials, academics, and citizens on                                                                            Tel: 66 (2) 233-1644 to 1647
important issues, such as land disputes, human                                                                              Fax: 66 (2) 237-7011
rights, community rights, and gender equality.
Let’s Talk Rights began broadcasting on Thai PBS


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