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Largest Civil Society Conference to be held in Thailand

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Non-governmental organisations and civic groups from across the country will hold a massive gathering starting 21 October to discuss political and social reforms. About 3,000 people from 100 organisations and groups are expected to join the three-day Thai Social Forum (TSF) at Thammasat University's Rangsit campus on Oct 21-23. It will be the biggest gathering of academics and social advocates in several years. FORUM-ASIA is also part of a major plenary on the Southern Thailand Conflict.The Thai Social Forum (TSF), to be held from 21-23 October at Thammasat University Rangsit Campus, will be the largest civil society conference in 2006. About 2,500-3,000 participants will attend this forum.

Initially, Thailand planned to host the polycentric World Social Forum – Southeast Asia in 2006; in concurrent to other polycentric Social Forums (Venezuela, Mali, and Pakistan).

However, following the Asian Consultation on the World Social Forum in Sri Lanka from 4-5 June 2006, the representative from Southeast Asia (SEA) expressed that the WSF-Asia that was to be held in Pakistan would not be suitable for the SEA participants, due to geographical and the distance between countries.

After much deliberation between Thai NGOs, it was decided to have a Thai SocialForum instead of a WSF-SEA, to strengthen the social movements within Thailand.

As of now, the TSF will focus on five themes:

  1. Social Equality and Human Security
  2. A New World “Solidarity and Equality”
  3. Civil Society and Peoples Empowerment
  4. Peace Building in Thailand and Southern Thailand
  5. The role of free media in democracy.

Participants are expected to come from more than 100 organizations, ranging from groups working on migrant workers, women’s rights, Lesbian Gay Bi-sexual and Transgender issues, Trade Unions, political reforms, freedom of the media/expressions/assembly and welfare states, among other. There will be more than 60 panel discussions/conferences from various issues/topics during the two days event (21-22 October) and cultural/social events in the evening.

Major panels regarding the five main themes will be conducted in the morning of the 21st; with another major panel on political reform all day on the 22nd. The Thai Social Forum will end with the drafting of the Thai Social Forum statement on political reform and social development.

FORUM-ASIA is hosting the major plenary on “Peace-building in Southern Thailand”. The panel will bring together the voices and perspectives of human rights defenders (HRDs) who are working with Coordinating Committee for Civil Society Organizations in Southern Thailand (CCOS), a network which FORUM-ASIA has initiated.

Speakers include Dr. Wae-mahadee Wada-oh; former Senator of Narathiwat Province, Professor Soraya Jamjuree, lecturer at Prince of Songkla University-Pattani Campus; Mr. Nilaman Sulaiman, the coordinator of CCOS; and Ms. Chalida Tajaroensuk, the consultant of FORUM-ASIA. The plenary will bring together the actions toward building peace in Southern Thailand.

On 23rd October, a press conference will be held, followed by a mass demonstration at 4 pm from Thammasat University, Tha Prachan Campus to the Government House, to demand the military regime to return the constitution to the people.

For more information, please contact Pong at [email protected] – a more elaborated schedule will be send out later.