Students crowd Bangkok on Anti-Corruption Day, December 9

11 Dec 2012

image UNDP Thailand/ Mark S. Cogan | Atom Govlabel, a student at Ubon Ratchathani University gives a rousing speech to 1,500+ students in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Center on December 9.

Taking a personal stand against corruption, more than 1,500 university students from all over Thailand came by bus, by car, and by plane to meet at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center (BACC) for a massive afternoon rally. The 3 p.m. rally was also the network’s first announcement to the public.

“We took a pledge ourselves, but we really wanted the public to know we were here and that they too have the power within themselves to resist corruption and corrupt practices. It starts with us,” said Sayuti Salam, the President of the Thai Youth Anti-Corruption Network, and student at Prince of Songkhla University in Hat Yai.

A recent ABAC poll reported that a majority (63.4%) of Thai people hold the view that corruption in government is acceptable as long as they also benefit from it. A majority of young people under 20 now hold the same attitude.

As many as 600 students came from the South to participate in the rally, as well as 800 from the Northeast, and another 300 from Bangkok and other parts of Thailand. They were joined by UN staff and members of the public who looked on from the walkways of Bangkok’s BTS public-transit system.

“Fighting corruption begins with us, and it ends with us. These students showed Thailand a way forward—that the way to end corruption is to start from the inside,” said UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Luc Stevens.

In partnership with Khon Kaen University’s College of Local Administration, UNDP has engaged more than 90 universities and over 2,500 students from across Thailand since June to create the student-led network. UNDP held anti-corruption camps across the country to educate student leaders about the dangers of corruption in Thai society and to promote responsible citizenship and civic knowledge.

The December 9 public rally was also a signal to the public that every sector in Thailand is now actively engaged in fighting corruption.

The afternoon event on International Anti-Corruption Day was also major success for UNDP and the more than 90 student and university partners forged earlier this year.

In June, UNDP and Khon Kaen University’s College of Local Administration created the Thai Youth Anti-Corruption Network, following the first of UNDP’s six tough anti-corruption camps. That network grew both online and culminated in the December 9 rally. UNDP quickly learned that students were well aware of the dangers of corruption—but felt powerless to take action. But through an array of speakers, motivators, and educators, UNDP started with 36 students from 15 universities from across the Thailand to come up with activities and foment long-term solutions to corruption. That network grew to more than 3,400.

“We went into this blind. Many of the students aren’t politically active or spend much of their time on campus talking about corruption issues, but we’re impressed with their level of awareness,” said Kwanpadh Suddhi-Dhamakit, UNDP Programme Analyst at UNDP.

UNDP aims to continue its anti-corruption efforts in 2013 at the university level, creating a strong campus activist organizations with permanent ties to universities, academics, journalists, and civil society organizations.