UNDP and partners establish “Refuse to be corrupt” café project

Sep 24, 2014

From left to right: Associate Professor, Mr. Treenate Sarapong, Vice President, Ubon Ratchathani University; Mr. Virat Techanirattisai, General Manager, True Lifestyle Retail, Co. Ltd.; Mr. Luc Stevens, UN Resident Coordinator/ UNDP Representative; Dr. Mana Nimitmongkol, Manager, Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand; and Dr. Siripong Preysiri, Assistant to President, Khon Kaen University

 “Refuse to be corrupt” café project helps Thai youth to map out their plans to tackle corruption within their universities, communities and beyond

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Thailand joined forces with the Anti-Corruption Organization of Thailand, True Lifestyle Retail Co., Ltd (True Coffee) Khon Kaen University and Ubon Ratchathani University, in a signing ceremony to provide café spaces for university students to discuss how to tackle corruption in Thai society. The project aims to establish two pilot “Refuse to be corrupt” cafes next year, at Khon Kaen University and Ubon Ratchathani University.

Corruption is a complex and serious issue which is rooted in the values and structures of Thai society. It undermines the country’s democracy and rule of law and has created social upheavals and impediments to Thailand’s development. Despite countless efforts, corruption still persists and continues to be a major obstacle to Thailand’s economic, political and social development. Of particular concern is the Thai youth; the future workforce and citizens of the country.

“The future must not belong to the corrupt few who steal the country’s resources. The future of Thailand must be won by educated youth who seek transparency, accountability and justice. This is a vision we will support,” said Luc Stevens, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Thailand at the ceremony.

The “Refuse to be corrupt” cafes will provide young people with a space to meet, discuss issues of corruption among their peers and organize events. The profits from the cafes will be used to fund their anti- corruption activities. True Lifestyle Retail, operator of the True Coffee chain, is one of the main partners in the project, who will provide training to the university students in managing the cafes.

“True Coffee is very proud to be a part of this project. It is a great opportunity for us to contribute to society by inspiring and mobilizing the youth in our country,” said Virat Techanirattisai, True Lifestyle Retail's General Manager.  “Aside from the knowledge and lessons learned from running their own business, the students can also contribute to the creation of a knowledge-based society as well as raise funds for their future projects,” added Mr. Techanirattisai.

Following UNDP’s national youth campaign and university level anti-corruption camps across the country in 2011, the Thai Youth Anti- Corruption Network was created. The UNDP-sponsored Thai Youth Anti- Corruption Network, is an active group of over 6,000 students from over 90 universities across Thailand. The network aims to eliminate corruption through the empowerment of young people and run a series of campaigns to raise awareness among their peers. Members from the network will be selected to run the cafes.

“The key players here are us,” said Chaiwat Assawabenjang, a student member of the Thai Youth Anti- Corruption Network which hosted the ceremony.  “It’s not about politicians or the policy that’s been given to us. It’s about us, and it’s up to us to change the future of our country."

Chairperson of the Anti-Corruption Organization of Thailand, Pramon Sutivong said, “This is an innovative idea to really engage the students, they are already excited, and us, in the private sector, we are proud to help the students to understand corruption and give them an opportunity to run their business responsibly and corruption-free.”

The partnership signing ceremony was held ahead of UNDP’s regional dialogue on “Accelerating Human Development in Asia-Pacific: Transparency, Accountability and Voices against Corruption”. UNDP has an on-going Global Anti- Corruption Initiative, and the “Refuse to be corrupt” cafes are one of many innovative ideas UNDP is working on in the Asian- Pacific region to support the growth of a new generation of civil citizenship.