Santi Pracha Dhamma Institute (SPD) is a non-government organization which was established to commemorate Dr. Puay Ungpakorn who turned 70 years old in 1986. Dr. Puay Ungpakorn is one of the most distinguished Thai thinkers who proposed the three ethoses of Santi (peace), Pracha (people’s rule or democracy) and Dhamma (righteousness or justice) as the foundation of the country. On 10 October 1973, only 4 days before the victory of people’s uprising against the military government, Dr. Puay wrote a famous short essay “The Quality of Life of a South East Asian : A Chronical of Hope from Womb to Tomb” campaigning that the government has responsibility to provide the comprehensive social welfare for every people equally from the birth to the death. He was among the few people who demanded for genuine democracy while Thailand then was suffering the military dictatorship regime. Due to his humble but sharp challenges against the military junta, Dr. Puay Ungpakorn had to leave Thailand and live in exile until his death in the year 1999.
Our organization aimed to continue Dr. Puay Ungpakorn’s principles. We adopted the name Santi Pracha Dhamma and the related meanings of peace, democracy and justice to guide our activities.
1. To achieve the genuine participatory democracy
2. To achieve social justices
3. To promote the non-violent social actions for changes toward democracy and social justice.
OUR BRIEF HISTORY
In 1986, Sulak Sivaraksa found Santi Pracha Dhamma Institute (SPD) to honor Dr. Puay Ungpakorn for his 70th anniversary. Since the establishment, SPD organized many activities locally, nationally and internationally according to the objectives. During the first 5 years of our existence, from 1986 to 1990, Thailand was in the transition period from military governments to the semi-democratic governments. SPD work focused on democratization in Thailand. Our work was mainly to raise awareness of civil rights and democracy and to provide empowerment training programs on non violent social actions for democratization. Our target groups were student activists, grassroots people’s organizations, and NGO workers. The following few years Thailand had civil government for a very short time before the military took over the country again. In 1992, SPD joined the anti-military government campaign and demonstrations.
Beside the activities at home, SPD also supported the grassroots organizations in neighboring countries such as Laos, Cambodia, Burma and Sri Lanka.
From 1993 due to lack of staff, SPD reduced our activity for several years.
From 1990 until now SPD becomes active again and takes the responsibility of the secretariat for the Assembly of the Poor (AOP). AOP was established as a larger network of Thai grassroots and farmers’ organizations including the small scale farmers, fisher folks, workers, ethnic minorities and the urban poor since 1995. It was formed into sub-networks around the problems that the poor have been facing. AOP demanded for changes in government policies on economic development and people’s participation in natural resource management.
SPD acted as the secretariat for 3 networks within AOP, i.e. Network of Land, Network of Forests, Network of Water. Our work is to empower the poor to engage in social actions for social, economic and political justices as well as to seek for alternatives to mainstream development. We also help AOP in coordination with government, NGOs, media & international networks e.g. La Via Campesina.
OUR RECORD OF SELECTED PAST ACTIVITIES
1986-1996 Series of panel discussions and seminars to raise awareness on civil rights and democracy
Series of training programs on non-violence social actions for people’s organizations and non-government organizations.
Series of training programs for newly graduates on social and political analysis and skills for social activism
Series of training programs on non-violence for grassroots organizations in Laos, Cambodia, Burma and Sri Lanka
Developing training materials in Thai, English and Burmese languages for training programs on alternatives to consumerism, sustainable village economics, appropriate technology and others.
1992 Cooperating with many organizations in protests and mass demonstration of anti-military government of Gen. Suchinda Kraprayul
1993 Participating in protests against the construction of nuclear plant in Nakorn Nayok province
1999 Co-organizing International Conference on Alternatives to Consumerism
1999 Organizing a project on Alternative Politics for Asia. The project is to seek for political ideas based on Asian wisdom and spirituality
1999-present Taking responsibility as the secretariat for the Assembly of the Poor (AOP)’s Network of Land, Network of Forests and Network of Water
Acting as international liaison for AOP
2009-2011 Carrying out a research for development of villagers’ capacity and knowledge in management of natural resources conflicts.
OUR COOPERATION WITH INTERNATIONAL NETWORK
SPD is the liaison for Assembly of the Poor with La Via Campesina (LVC) for over 10 years. It is a strong member supporting LVC’s campaigns in Asia. It joins LVC’s working group on food sovereignty, an issue that LVC encourages UN to recognize. It arranges training programs on peasants’ rights for LVC members in South & Southeast Asia. With LVC’s support, it can pressure Thai National Human Rights Commission to take actions for democratic control of land. It also joins LVC campaign on climate change.
OUR CURRENT PROJECTS
In the year 2011, SPD is planning the following projects:
1. The Poor’s Drafting and Initiation of Law for the Just and Sustainable Preservation, Management and Use of Land in Thailand
Recently Thailand experiences numerous cases of disputes, conflicts and violence among individuals, communities and economic sectors related to the use of land which is the limited natural resources. The project is to review the current problems about the use of land and the problematic laws about the land. It will then provide opportunity for the poor, including the marginalized and the ethnic minorities, to utilize the civil rights to law initiation by supporting them to draft a new law based on their genuine need for local and national master plans on land which are sustainable, just and ecologically and culturally appropriate. Then, the project will empower them to take social actions to propose the law.
2. Empowerment of the Women Leaders of the Poor
In the present people movements, the number of the women leaders is still limited. Their opportunity to improve the leadership skill is also comparatively small. However, SPD recognizes their potentiality and the significance of their engagement in the movement. We then aim to provide social and political empowerment training program for the women leaders in grassroots communities and organizations. In the project, the participants will enforce their knowledge on women’s rights, political rights, civil rights and community rights. The topic also covered in the project is to bring forth and fortify the women’s wisdom and leadership for they can participate in the natural resources management at all levels. The participants will also be trained to carry out social actions and campaign for the issues of their concerns.
3. Development of the Community Capacity for Sustainable management of natural resources in the Upper Tonle Sab River Basin
The upper Tonle Sab river basin covers several provinces in lower part of Northeast Region of Thailand along the Thai-Cambodian borderline. The river basin is the origin of many rivers and streams. In this project, SPD will work with the villagers’ organizations in 4 sub-districts of Ta Phraya District, Sra Khaew Province to develop a community’s capacity and management plan for the sustainable use of the natural resources in the area. The project aims to use action research technique to enable the villagers to understand the problems, to systematize and organize the local wisdom on natural resource management and to seek for ecologically and culturally appropriate alternative economic activities based on the community natural resources for poverty eradication.
4. Empowerment of Thai Small Scale Farmers to implement the Constitutional rights for Food Sovereignty
The project aims to provide civil education for the small scale farmer leaders so that they could implement the community rights and human rights as stipulated in Thai constitution to achieve food sovereignty. They will also be trained to take actions at local and national levels. At local level, they will set up 5 pilot sites in 4 regions with diverse agricultural types to set models of the assertion of those rights, leading to a democratic interaction with local administration bodies. At national level, will arrange the democratic interaction with the government to discuss the problems and recommendation the farmers gained form the pilot sites & to push for changes in government policies and law in favor of the issue.
Santi Pracha Dhamma Institute (SPD)
666 Charoen Nakorn Road, Klong San, Bangkok 10600 Thailand