Student anti-corruption movement gains momentum
“I realize the problem of corruption—there is a lot of it in Thailand, but I didn’t know what I could do," said a frustrated Sayuti Salam, a student at Prince of Songkhla University in Hat Yai.
He’s now a minority. ABAC, a Thai polling firm recently reported that nearly two-thirds 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 now hold that same attitude.
University students were UNDP’s entry point in an effort to turn the tide against corruption in Thailand. Using a diverse array of speakers, motivators, and educators, UNDP and the College of Local Administration at Khon Kaen University, worked on a plan to engage universities and foment long-term solutions to corruption through a series of anti-corruption camps for student leaders.
“When I heard about this project, I was very interested and wanted to be a part of it so I could help tell people that youth like me are opposed to corruption,” he said.
His motivation has translated into a growing student anti-corruption movement. What began from a small weekend camp this past June has ballooned into a network of nearly 1,600 students from 90 universities.
The student-run Thai Youth Anti-Corruption Network is also active on social media, where students discuss current events, share key anti-corruption messages with their peers, and plan local meetings and events.
Students like Salam are one of UNDP’s most important partners in the fight against corruption.
“To solve the problem of corruption, we need to show that it is unacceptable and we are not going to take it anymore,” said Sayuti.
Khon Kaen University has also played a key role in educating and motivating student leaders—including some important advocacy from their charismatic university president.
“The university recognizes the importance of giving information to students to fight corruption. They will be the driving force in the future,” said Associate Professor and President of Khon Kaen University Dr. Kittichai Triratanasirichai.
Dr. Kittichai said that it was important for Thai universities to do their part in fighting corruption on school grounds. He said universities should integrate ethics and morality courses into general courses.
The anti-corruption camps are one part civic education and one part communication and media training. Beginning with the camp in Khon Kaen, students formed the Thai Youth Anti-Corruption Network, a public advocacy network designed to recruit new students, and disseminate information to peers about the dangers of corruption in Thai society.
UNDP continues to host camps across Thailand, continuing in Lampang on 3 November and continuing in Ubon Ratchathani on 17 November. The aim is to create a larger anti-corruption network among university peer groups to create campus organizations and jointly plan activities for International Anti-Corruption Day, held December 9 and beyond.
The network is a part of UNDP’s Anti-Corruption Initiative, which began engaging with students more than a year ago. UNDP also signed a partnership in August with the Anti-Corruption Network, a private sector group led by a consortium of Thai businessmen and more than 30 industry associations, which include the Thai Chamber of Commerce, the Thai Bankers’ Association, the Federation of Thai Industries, and the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET).
The newly-signed partnership aims to promote regular dialogue and strategy on fighting corruption, the development of public advocacy campaigns, and knowledge sharing in raising public awareness and building capacity of organizations within the expanding network.