Sunday

Thailand's “Roving Buakeaw" Project

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Thailand initiated an innovative project called the – “Roving Buakeaw Project” - that allows the government to take account of public opinion when formulating foreign policy. The project is led by the Foreign Minister who along with senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs goes to the people to listen on various issues with potential impact on Thai foreign policy. This is an attempt to engage and include Thai citizens from all walks of life, especially in the border provinces in shaping Thai foreign policy. Town halls, local temples, provincial schools etc serve as meeting sites and “information collected is taken into consideration in formulating foreign policy if and when appropriate.”

The Thai ministry of foreign affairs describe that the main activities of the project include, “informal discussion on issues of international affairs affecting the life such as trading and consular service as well as roving passport services.” People from the selected provinces also have the opportunity to participate through local radio stations via live broadcasts. Issues discussed include trading along the border, labor issues, tourism etc.

Apart from top echelons of the ministry, participants include Members of Parliament, businessmen, member of the local Chambers of Commerce, local media, local government officials, non-profits and civil society etc. In Southeast Asia, Thailand remains a dynamic state when it comes to foreign policy. It was one of the first states to accept the reality of a rising China and engage the Chinese aggressively despite US being the preeminent power in East Asian affairs. Historically too, Thailand was the only country in the whole of Asia to have never been colonized despite never being a great power. The “Roving Buakew Project” along with other such projects like “Young Ambassador of Virtue,” are wonderful initiatives to give ‘common people’ a direct say in formulating foreign policy. See this link for a presentation by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand.

Suggestions/Critiques welcome.

- Madhur

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