The anniversary of the foundation was celebrated with a special talk on ‘the Future of Thailand’ by Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi. Dr. Supachai is the former deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, the former Secretary General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the former Director- General of the World Trade Organization (2002-2005). He is also currently involved in the drafting of the National Strategic Plan, which will provide the framework for Thailand’s policies over the next 20 years.
The need for consistency and human resource development
In his talk Dr. Supachai stressed the importance of the National Strategic Plan in providing consistency in Thai politics, noting that the greatest problem in Thailand is the lack of continuity. He stressed that Thailand must develop a new, mature economy that focuses on long-term gains instead of ‘quick-fixes’, placing particular emphasis on education and human resource development. Using the example of Scandinavia, he underlined the importance of investing more in teachers rather than infrastructure. He explained that students in Scandinavia are thought to think critically which makes them more prepared to navigate the rapidly changing societies we live in today. He also used Thailand’s Ministry of Education to demonstrate the failure of consistency in Thai politics, highlighting that Thailand has had 21 Ministers of Education over the last 20 years.
Importance of regional integration
Dr. Supachai also addressed the importance of regional integration in Asia explaining that issues in one Southeast Asian country affects all the countries in Southeast Asia. He noted that Southeast Asia should ensure stronger collaboration with other countries in Asia such as China and Korea, to find solutions to the various challenges facing the region. In spite of his focus on cooperation Dr. Supachai placed significant emphasis on the need for Asian countries to stop relying on other countries, particularly western countries. He added that all countries help themselves before they help others, underlining that Thailand should not let other countries dictate the terms for Thai politics.
The role of NGO’s in development
At the end of his talk and during the follow-up discourse with Khun Vorava Tarapoon, Chairman of the Executive Board of BBL Asset Management, and Khun Prinn Panitchpakdi, Member of Corporate Governance and Social Responsibilities Committee of the Stock Exchange of Thailand discussed the role of non-profit organizations in the future of Thailand. Dr. Supachai noted that Raks Thai foundation was particularly important due to its focus on poor communities, adding that equality is a precondition for sustainable development. Khun Vorava mentioned the role of active citizens in development, adding that governments alone cannot ensure development; civil society organizations and private sector must take an active role.
The Raks Thai Foundation projects
In addition to the talks and the high-powered discourse, the anniversary reception also included an exhibition, featuring the various projects conducted by the Raks Thai foundation in Thailand. On the issue of gender equality, the organization has initiated several projects aimed at empowering women by building occupational capacity and enhancing the skills of women in rural areas. Their projects on the environment and climate change has mainly been directed at promoting sustainable use of natural resources for food security, crop diversification, and community agricultural cooperatives. Projects related to health has been targeted at the prevention of HIV/ AIDS amongst women and children living in poor communities. Moreover, the Raks Thai foundation is also invested in disaster relief, facilitating preparation and response for when disasters strikes.
The Raks Thai Foundation was established on August 15, 1997 as a Thai successor to CARE International. The foundation works to strengthen the capacity of poor and disadvantaged communities throughout Thailand, focusing on five key areas; health, gender equality, capacity building, environment and global warming, and disaster relief. The organization currently employs 266 people, and operates in 33 provinces in close cooperation with other civil society organizations, the government and the private sector.