Phairoj Polphet

Ashoka Fellow

Citation

This profile was prepared when Phairoj Polphet was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1995.
The New Idea
Thailand has a tradition of monarchy and strong centralized governments. It became a constitutional monarchy in 1932, and the intervening period has been marked by alternating periods of strong military governments and occasional experiments in democracy. Most of its people still live in rural areas that are administered by local administrative councils, called tambon councils, which are, in turn, under the authority of provincial governments. The Thai government has been frustrated by attempts at democratization on the provincial level, which have led to involving several very high profile corruption scandals, provincial officials. It has recently declared decentralization as a major priority, with plans to go directly to the tambon level. Thus hoping to instill democratic principles and practices at the grassroots, a level where citizens can in practice actually hold their governments accountable. Phairoj Pholphet is preparing the people of Thailand for the legal changes that will begin the transfer of increased amounts of decision-making power to localities. His goal is to create a better balance between local and central authorities, and to raise the level of confidence and responsibility for problem solving among rural dwellers.

By helping local people understand the law and learn how it can work for them, Phiroj is empowering and encouraging them to organize and form their own information networks. He is helping to prepare the Thais to participate in government as proactive and well-informed local leaders who will be able to have a voice in decisions being made about matters that affect their lives, such as their land, their children's education, sources of jobs, water, and electrical power.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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