Human Development Index/Wellbeing Thailand

The Human Development Index (HDI)  originated in reports by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Originally developed and implemented by Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq in 1990 “to shift the focus of development economics from national income accounting to people-centred policies”(Haq,1990). The HDI focuses on measuring education, life expectancy and per capita income. So countries where people live long and happy lives, are well educated and have a comfortable standard of living tend to score the highest. Thailand currently has a score of 0.74 placing it at 87 out of all 188 countries measured making it a top scoring country. In 1990 Thailand had a score of 0.54, this means that Thailand has achieved an increase of almost 29 percent since 1990 and the last HDI report in 2015. The mean years of schooling increased by 3.3 years, life expectancy at birth also increased by 4.3 years, and there has been a huge increase of 121.2 percent regarding the GNI per capita. The Inequality-adjusted HDI helps to focus on and brings into account all the inequalities in all three areas; inequality is something that the standard HDI fails to reveal. When the Inequality-adjusted HDI in taken into account Thailand’s score falls to just 0.54, resulting in a 20 percent loss. This is, however, the average for high scoring HDI countries.(HDI report,2016)

 

The Happy Planet Index was conceived by and carried out by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) in 2006.As opposed to the HDI the HPI focuses more on sustainability. The HDI report of a country may only reveal the GDP and solid figures relating to standard development but not on sustainable development or the effects on the environment. Countries that leave small ecological footprints score significantly higher than those that leave large ones. The HPI also takes into account the happiness of people and believes that the usual ultimate aim of most people is not to be rich, but to be happy and healthy(Sen,1999).Thailand measures very well on the Happy Planet Index with a score of 37.3, placing the country at 9th place of all 140 countries that were measured. The life-expectancy of people in Thailand is currently 74.5 years, with people having a wellbeing of 6.3 out of 10. Thailand scored 2.7gha/p(global hectares per person) for their ecological footprint and achieved  a score of 15 percent for inequality. Thailand has scored very well on the HPI, making it into the top 10 of all countries measured. The HPI does not take into account human rights abuses, however, although some figures may reflect this. The HPI has also been criticized as an effective tool for measurement as there is too much focus on happiness, something which is subjective and personal and the parameters for which change with each perspective culture.(Happy Planet Index,2017)

 

The GDP of Thailand currently represents 0.66 percent of the economy of the world which is worth 406 billion USD. The GDP growth rate was showing a downward trend over the last few years due to political turmoil but now is on the rise again due to some sense of political stability. (Trading Economics,2017)

 

Thailand scored significantly higher on the HPI compared to the HDI. This is due to the focus on sustainability, environmental impact and ‘happiness’. There are major merits to both of these measurements as well as numerous ways that they fall short and fail to see the whole picture. The HPI does not take into account human rights abuses which are a major issue, particularly in Thailand. Human rights abuses do effect the figures to a degree such as the scores for wellbeing and equality. They do not, however, have much to do with life expectancy or Thailand’s ecological footprint. Sen Amartyas statement about the primary focus of people is their wish to be happy over wealth is very accurate. (Sen,1999)  If people were offered to be happy or wealthy, they would more often than not choose to be happy. Most people believe that wealth is the vehicle that leads to happiness. Happiness is hard to quantify, as it is not a concrete figure and means something different for everyone. In either case, Thailand is on a positive trend, and as long as there is no more political unrest, the country can look forward to both financial security and happiness.

 

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Paulo Freire, Oppression and Conscientization

Paulo Reglus Neves Freire was a Brazilian educator and deemed by some to be the most important educator of the second half of the twentieth century(Carnoy 2004). Freire was the leading voice in the critical pedagogy theory and thus wrote Pedagogy of the Oppressed, believed to be the founding text of the critical pedagogy movement. Freire was born to a relatively wealthy middle-class family in Brazil who then suffered during the great depression resulting in Freire experiencing the life of the poor.  Freire did not do well in school, nor did many of the poorer children who came to be his close companions; this was due to their hunger and social situation as Freire stated ” “I didn’t understand anything because of my hunger. I wasn’t dumb. It wasn’t lack of interest. My social condition didn’t allow me to have an education”(Stevens, no date). Many believe these early scenarios are what led Freire on his lifelong conquest to aid the poorest in society. After his family had their fortune back, Freire enrolled into law school and also studied phenology and language psychology. For the next few years Freire worked as a lecturer and attained many high ranking positions at various universities; he was imprisoned as a traitor during the 1964 military coup as he was believed to be a traitor. After being released he worked in Chile and published Education as the Practice of Freedom which was his first book. He was then offered a visiting professorship at Harvard. The next year Pedagogy of the Oppressed was released,although it took some years to be translated due to political feuds. After working in The USA and Switzerland, he eventually moved with his wife to Sao Paulo where he died in 1997 due to heart failure.

Oppression was believed to be Freires most contested social issue. Oppression is a constant and ever evolving struggle between those with power and those without it, between the oppressed and the oppressor. We all belong to one of these groups at certain points in our lives. There are numerous categories which can form our varying forms of as oppressor/oppressed such as: social class, gender, sexual orientation, age, sex and so on. Sometimes people use these categories as a mode to vent their own prejudiced ideologies, for example, someone of a particular race may steal from them, they then, in turn, may view all people from that race as thieves. This can also be seen the other way around  where dominant groups may be victimized such as if a woman suffered some form of domestic abuse they may them blame all men. Both forms of mistreatment may hurt individuals equally case by case but mistreatment by women is systematic and socially accepted so the context within the mistreatment really makes a big difference (Sean Ruth 2006).Oppression is a word which people hear and often think of an authoritarian regime bent on totalitarianism. This is not always the case as Sean Ruth defines oppression as “where people do not get equal treatment or do not get treated with respect because they belong to a certain group or category of people”(Sean Ruth 2006). Oppression is a systematic process; it is not random. Many people internalize oppression, if someone is told something for long enough, they start to believe it. If someone Is told that they are stupid or ugly for long enough, then they begin to see it as fact.

Conscientization is defined by Ledwith as “the process whereby people become aware of the political, socioeconomic and cultural contradictions that interact in a hegemonic way to diminish their lives” (Ledwith 2005). Conscientisation means developing a critical consciousness which is pivotal to perceive social, political, and economic oppression and to take action against the oppressive elements of society.(Hermes press, no date). Conscientisation can result in collective action, or can even be applied individually to encourage critical analysis, metacognition and perhaps also to let go of long-held and oppressive worldviews.

 

 

Freire believed that the key to attaining conscientisation was through liberating and radical education, one such mode could be culture circles. This is a more informal teaching methodology where the focus is on group discussion and participation as opposed to an alienating syllabus. This is a form of liberating education.

 

 

Freire saw two perspectives two education. Firstly there was the banking approach where the student is seen as an empty account merely waiting to be filled by the teacher; this results in the students simply being receiving objects and little more. This keeps things as they are and educates individuals to fit into society. Secondly, there was the liberating approach; this can be implemented through methods such as culture circles. This allows both teachers and students to be co-learners where relevant knowledge can be sought together. Students are left with critical knowledge in a way that the banking approach to education could never provide. This results in the transformation of the status quo entirely. (Hope and Timmel 1995)

Freires concepts of oppression and conscientization have always impressed me and are most relevant in our current narcissistic era. In our current societies, we aspire to be cool, illiterate, egotistical and violent individuals. Not to seem like a political nihilist but we truly are victims of our past and upbringing, and that is why we do what we do now, we have little control. We have lost the knowledge of how precious real human liberty is. This is because our education systems have and are continuing to create a whole generation of distracted people. In Frieres own words:

“Who are better prepared than the oppressed to understand the terrible significance of an oppressive society? Who suffer the effects of oppression more than the oppressed? Who can better understand the necessity of liberation? They will not gain this liberation by chance but through the praxis of their quest for it, through their recognition of the necessity to fight for it. And this fight, because of the purpose given it by the oppressed, will actually constitute an act of love opposing the lovelessness which lies at the heart of the oppressors’ violence, lovelessness even when clothed in false generosity.”(Friere 1968)

 

 

 

 

The Human Rights Abuses of migrant workers in Thailand-แรงงานข้ามชาติ

In Thailand, there are almost two million migrant workers, around eighty percent of them being Burmese. Many of the Burmese workers came in the eighties and nineties as Thailand experienced an economic boom having an average wage increase of eight percent per year. This was because the migrant workers would take up the jobs that many Thai people would not such as manufacturing and hard agricultural work. Many leave in the face of almost certain poverty for the chance of a better life. Upon arrival in Thailand, however, they face discrimination and human rights abuses daily, both from their employers and from the authorities that are supposed to be protecting them.

 

 

 

Migrant workers arrive in Thailand with the hopes of living a better life than the one that they left behind. Those hopes are often shattered in a concise time. Migrant workers are effectively tied to their employers, they are not able to find other work, and their company holds all their ‘legal’ paperwork. Not only this but authorities such as the police, military and even the immigration services that are supposed to be helping often abuse them, extorting them for money, threaten to kill them and can detain them without fear of reprisal. Common crime is another common factor which migrant workers fall victim to as they have few other that they can turn to with the authorities often looking the other way and are unwilling to help the workers. Numerous Inter-governmental organisations(IGO) have condemned Thailand’s discrimination and failure to protect its migrant worker population. This will be a paper to show what form of discrimination that the migrant workers in Thailand face as well as what discourse is used to justify their marginalised status as well as put forward suggestions of where NGOs and other organisations could intervene.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Thailand has so many Burmese migrant workers

 

As was mentioned previously the majority of migrant workers arrive in Thailand with dreams of a better future for them and their families. In the case of the Burmese migrant workers, it is due closely to Thailand’s economic boom in the 1990s when the average salary was steadily increasing at eight percent per annum.(Arnold 2005).The reason that workers from Burma were so ready to come to Thailand was also the relatively lax borders and immigration at that time due to the ‘constructive agreement’ enacted by the Chatichai Choonhavan government. Streams of migrant workers from Burma began pouring into the Thailand. They started taking the manual jobs that the Thai people of the time detested such as agriculture, factory and domestic work. Thailand then began to rely on these workers, and they would do workers that locals refused to and were needed more than every especially during the time of the Asian economic crisis. With this reliance came more workers as many were escaping the violent repression during the pro-democracy uprising in 1988, and on-going military offensives by the ruling military regime against ethnic nationalities, hundreds of thousands of people have fled, and continue to flee across the border to Thailand. All workers who arrived in Thailand travelled without any documentation, leaving their own country illegally and also entering Thailand illegally.(Pollock 2006).Gender is another factor which comes into play which forces many women to leave Burma. There is little opportunity for females to have quality education in Burma, forcing them to take low-skilled labour work when they can. There is a great deal of sexual violence in Burma that women wish to escape, most notably in the Shan state.Migrant workers have the potential to make a considerable amount of money in Thailand in comparison to what they could make back home in Burma. They then make what they can and send it back to their families in Burma. Even though these jobs are often over ten hours a day, manual labour jobs seven days a week in terrible conditions; they come from extreme poverty in Burma and is their only possibility to make money (Rohan Radheya 2014).According to Grant: ” The more illegal a migrant, the greater is the danger of the journey, or of being exploited, or even enslaved by the trafficker or unscrupulous employers:.(Grant 2005)

 

 

 

Discrimination and human rights abuses faced by migrant workers in Thailand

 

Sometimes Burmese workers’ pay for their position to work in Thailand from Burma. Sometimes the employers from Thailand can pay an agent to find employees for them. Either way, the migrant worker is liable to face debt as the cost of coming to Thailand, and their position amounts to several months wages. This doubled with extreme interest keep the workers crippled, unable to leave and no one to lend aid as they cannot go to the authorities. Police can do as they will and have little fear that anything will happen to them. A witness told Human Rights Watch how two policemen kicked a Burmese boy to death. They spoke to him, but he did not and could not reply to them in Thai:

“Many Burmese were watching, and nobody went and helped because all of the people were afraid of that police, so nobody said anything about this killing, and nobody informed the police station,” said the witness. “When I saw this [killing], I felt that we Burmese people always have to be humble and have to be afraid of the Thai police. I feel that there is no security for our Burmese people [in Thailand] or for myself.”(HRW 2010)

The employers hold the worker’s papers if the worker has them at all. This means that they cannot approach authorities even if they were willing to take the risk, as they have no papers to prove their eligibility in Thailand. This also counts for all forms of healthcare and other institutions that they cannot have access to freely. In Thailand citizens currently pay thirty baht per month for their healthcare, and they are covered.Migrant workers, however, do not have this luxury however and if an accident should befall them in their poor working conditions, then there is no way to receive medical attention without getting further and even deeper into debt.Having little money and unable to find little in the way of medical treatment many workers find themselves with some long-lasting injuries or diseases; from broken hands that never healed properly to cancer and most notably HIV/AIDs. A number of aid projects have been put in place to help migrants with the HIV/AIDs problem such as The Prevention of HIV/AIDS among Migrant Workers in Thailand Program known as “PHAMIT,” was funded by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) with the aim to reduce new HIV infection among migrant workers in Thailand. The program started in 2003 and ended in 2008.  Migrants reported constant fear of extortion by the police, who demand money or valuables from migrants held in police custody in exchange for their release. It is not uncommon for a migrant to lose the equivalent of one to several months’ pay in one extortion incident..(HRW 2010).Migrant workers in Thailand are severely prohibited in their movement and from any form of trade unions or peaceful assemblies. They would immediately be shut down and arrested. Workers must stay in designated zones and not leave them; they risk being detained by authorities and further trouble with their employers. In some cases when workers are held by police, they are unable to pay the ridiculous fees demanded of them. The police then may ask their work friends, and if they do not have the money, they may have to ask their family member back in Burma. The very people that the workers came to Thailand to try and make money for to send back to them. Sex workers are routinely trafficked in and are often young, knowing little about where they are going. Sometimes even being sold by their own family members.

“All the other girls were crying all the time, but I just kept quiet because I thought to myself that if I cry they can kill me and if I don’t cry they can also kill me, so why should I cry? So I just prepared my heart to face whatever was going to happen, because I did not want to cry. I thought I was going to die.”

(Bee Komjamwong, 2008)

Workers also face conflict and abuse from other rival migrant worker groups such as Cambodian with registered work permits.They often abuse the Burmese workers as they are seen as below them.( Zaw Naing 2010). To be legally employed in Thailand, migrants need three documents from Thai authorities: a labour card, a medical treatment card and a certificate from the immigration bureau. These are issued a certificate provided by the employer. In practice, migrants pay about 20,000 baht (600 dollars) each to brokers to arrange these documents. ( Zaw Naing 2010)It is not impossible for workers to change their status from illegal to legal workers it is however extremely difficult.Due to the restriction’s  set on them, they can do little to save the vast sums of money needed to achieve legal status. Workers are severely limited in their movements with not being able to drive their own vehicles or even their employers.They are not allowed to travel without written permission given by the department of employment. This then leaves them at the mercy of Thai teenage gangs who may rob and beat them. Many police recruit migrant workers and recruit them as gang members to work on their behalf; this appeals to many workers as they are then under the protection of the police and if there are fights between the migrants which there often is the police will take their side. The worker then must act as a more mediate between the two factions when workers are imprisoned and such. The more they know however makes their position more precarious as they find out more their life gets put in even more danger. A number of these inside migrant workers have disappeared already (Saw Htoo 2008)  The media does little to help the plight of the migrant workers, the media has been promoting its mostly ethnocentric views since the 1990s.Along with this is the nationalistic school system in place in Thailand which portrays Burma as their old nemesis and little else.The idea of Burma being Thailand oldest enemy is shown throughout numerous modern Thai movies, where ancient Thai heroes valiantly defeat evil Burmese commanders and save the innocents.

“They don’t treat people well because they still view them as enemies,” said Tananart Sakolvittayanon, 22, a graduate of Thammasat University.

“We need to learn real history, not just history that they burned our city… This is the 21st century.” (Tang 2015)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What has been done to so far to aid the migrant workers in Thailand

 

Numerous Inter-governmental organisations have openly spoken out against Thailand and its human rights breaches. The International Labor Organisation(ILO) for example at the  State Enterprise Workers’ Relations Confederation (SERC) had been criticising the Royal Thai Government(RTG) and how Thailand takes care of its migrant workers, saying that Thailand was in deep breach of International law. Savit Kaewarn, General Secretary of SERC, today said:

 

“Migrants in Thailand continue to suffer systematic discrimination as they work hand in hand with Thai workers to develop our economy. Instead of integrating foreign workers into our society, the Thai government consistently denies them their most fundamental rights. SERC again calls on the Ministry of Labour and all other public bodies to eliminate all discriminatory policies and laws to ensure migrant workers gain the fundamental rights to which all ‘workers,’ regardless of their nationality and immigration status, are entitled to.”

In 2012 the labour minister Minister Padermchai Sasomsap came up with a plan to help  Thailand remove themselves from the  “Tier 2 watch list”.This is a list from the Us State Department that Tiers countries on their level of human trafficking and efforts to stop it. The Labor Prim Ministers plan was to send all women who were three to four months pregnant back to Burma.This would then stop children being brought up in the ‘shanty towns’ where the workers live and further contributing the awful record of migrant child labour in Thailand.( Prachatai 2012).There are numerous other ways to help alleviate the human trafficking problem in Thailand, not simple deporting the pregnant women. The children of migrant workers should be educated and learn in established schools. The corrupt official should have pressure put on them and more efforts made to help the victims of trafficking.(Adams 2012). There have been some volunteer teachers, but little else can be done until the authorities allow the workers to move more freely and engage in the social domain.

 

 

 

What NGOs could be doing to help alleviate the burdens that face the migrant workers in Thailand

There has been criticisms of the Thai government and its handling of migrant workers. There does have to be more done for the workers at a local level, however. Workers should have more help in obtaining there legal working status. Little can be done as they remain illegal workers. Without legal status, they cannot gain access to healthcare and education which is pivotal for the workers to improve their status.As migrant workers have been coming to Thailand for almost thirty thirty years now, many have had families and now have multiple generations living together in shanty towns. The children do not receive an education which continues the cycle. Workers need freedom of movement to be able to gain better employment and not be tied to their employers. Employers must be held accountable and must have contracts checked by governing bodies. This way employer will not be able to withhold the worker’s paper or hold them ransom.

 

 

 

 

There are rampant human rights abuses currently taken place against the migrant workers in Thailand. There is little regulation for the workers. There is also no reprisal against those who are discriminating against migrant workers and denying them their basic human rights. The workers live in squalid conditions and have little education; their children do not have legal status either and therefore will fall into the same life as their parents. The authorities which should be protecting migrant workers are in fact abusing them, leaving them not one to turn to but instead seeing them as easy victims. Migrants have little knowledge of their rights and no nothing of unionising or forming policy. The migrant worker’s countries of origins should have stronger liaisons with Thai authorities to ensure the rights of workers and that more solid borders are enforced, and corrupt officials brought to account to help stop human trafficking.

 

 

How clicktivism and hashtag activism is destroying social activism

We have all heard of #BlackLivesMatter, #ALSIceBucketChallenge, and the #NODAPL movement; but how effective can hashtag activism really be?

 

Hashtag activism is a term that started appearing during the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Hashtagging and clicking are how the majority of millennials take part in modern day “Activism”. It is easy, you see a video that makes you feel something, you click it, share it and hashtag it. You then feel like you are making a difference, but are you really? The majority of millennials do use social media and believe it to be an effective tool for discussing topical social issues. The majority of the time, however, there are little or no tangible results. Do you remember the #Kony2012 and #BringBackOurGirls campaigns? The amount of attention that both of these campaigns received was unprecedented. Millions of people shared and tweeted, hashtagged and liked, but to little avail. Both of these campaigns received lots of media attention and clicktivists from all over the world made these campaigns known. Even after being dubbed the most viral video in history little difference was seen on the ground at the time. The campaign did lead to the Uganda military claiming they would capture Kony “dead or alive”, America also sent its own advisors to help. The African Union even send 5000 troops to help capture Kony. So much was done at the time but to little avail. Kony is still alive and free today, he is not, however “at large” as he was claimed to be before. He is now in hiding and has only around 100 troops compared to the 3000 he had before.

 

The majority of ” activism” nowadays is only skin deep, surface value activism; With little depth or meaning. Social activism in the past was real activism, with real risk and real tangible results. Look at the suffragettes, the coal mining communities, gay rights activists and numerous other groups who gambled with their lives and livelihoods. We now look back as we usually do, with ‘rose tinted glasses’, we idolize these people and now and paint them as heroes. There is little risk now, you feel morally superior when protesting with little risk to yourself or those around you the majority of the time. Slacktivism promotes this more and more, it does bring awareness to situations where in times gone by, no one would have even heard of them. Hashtagging and sharing is creating a generation where everyone is an activist, this is devaluing the word itself. People see something online and they can go out and protest in hundreds of thousands.  A  great number of people not even understanding fully the situation they are protesting, they have little knowledge of either side, theirs included. In the past, you totally and wholeheartedly believed in what you were fighting for. This is the great problem with the left now, they believe themselves morally superior to the right. There is no dialogue, if a Neo-Nazi approaches a podium to give their opinions, they are booed and attacked, they are called a bigot and a racist(they are by the way). This is what clicktivism is creating, a generation who believe themselves to be morally superior because they stand in some protest or share and hashtag something. It all comes down to knowledge and todays ‘activists’ seem to have little.

 

The ideology for people who who want to appear to be doing something for a particular cause with out actually having to do any thing.

The individual being a Slacktavist

great form of slacktavism is changing your facebook picture to support a cause with out actually doing anything that will make a difference. You are one great slacktavist.

 

The Thai Bhikkuni and their role in promoting female empowerment in Thailand

 

The majority of people in Thailand are devout Buddhists, with over 95 percent of the country following Buddhism and its entailed traditions and practices. Buddhism therefore, of course, plays an integral part in the culmination of Thai cultural identity. Buddhism is a part of every aspect of life in Thailand, from giving alms in the morning to the monks and children saying Buddhist prayers in the morning and the majority of Thai men being a monk at least for a short period of their life; Buddhist traditions are seen and felt everywhere in Thai society; As is the presence of the male dominated monkhood.

 

As Thailand is heavily influenced by Buddhist values, the Buddhist monks are of course the curators of the religion. Thai monks are seen and felt everywhere with over 32,000 monasteries, 265,956 monks and 87,695 novices (Bangkok Post survey 2017).Monks take part in many official ceremonies daily throughout for example monks may bless a house or a new car, offer prayers at a wedding(Less than 100 years ago, this would never have happened as monks were seen as an ill omen, only to attending funerals): monks may offer prayers for a new business and any number of other occasions. Although monks are numerous in Thailand and come from a variety of social and economic backgrounds (Even the current King has ordained) they do have one thing in common, they are all male. Monks being the representatives of a religion which take part in every part of daily Thai life and they are all male, there is another group of individuals who also embody traditional Buddhist values, the ‘rebel monks’ the Thai Bhikkunni. The Bhiksunni are a group of female monks ordained in the Theravada tradition. Many Bhikkunni have faced opposition in Thailand, both from the male dominated Sangha Supreme Council of Thailand (Buddhist governing body in Thailand) and from laypeople (non-ordained individuals).  This paper will be an assessment of  role that men have in challenging gender equality, namely the male dominated Sangha in Thailand. It will discuss if it is more important for women to form their owns groups, or to work alongside with men. The gains that could  be made through gender equality  programmes targeting both men and women will be discussed as well as what may be appropriate or undesirable.

 

 

 

Chatsumarn Kabilsingh Shatsena now known as Dhammananda Bhikkhuni was the first modern woman to receive full ordination in the Theravada tradition of Buddhism in Thailand. Born in 1944 Chatsumarn Kabilsingh Shatsena to Voramai Kabilsingh also known as Ta Tao Fa Tzu as she was ordained in the Dharmaguptaka  school of Buddhism and Kokiat Shatsena Chatsumarn has to lead a fascinating life and is now the abbess of  Songdhammakalyani Monastery, the only Bhikkunni temple in Thailand. Translated as the “temple where women uphold the Dharma”. Dhammanda Bhikkunni was ordained on 28 February 2003 in Sri Lanka after which she returned to Thailand.(Snyder, 2003). There has of course been much opposition to the Bhikkuni order in Thailand. Many Bhikku (Male monks) including the Ecclesiastical Council disagree with the ordination of Bhikkuni in Thailand believing their ordination to be illegitimate. According to Metthanando Bhikku a prominent monk in Thailand and member of the Ecclesiastical Council:”Equal rights for men and women are denied by the Ecclesiastical Council. No woman can be ordained as a Theravada Buddhist nun or bhikkhuni in Thailand. The Council has issued a national warning that any monk who ordains female monks will be severely punished.”( Metthanando Bhikku,2005).According to Buddhist historians, the original order of the Bhikkuni was set up several years after the Bhikku order at the request of Mahapajapati who was the Buddhas aunt and carer after the death of his mother and her followers. According to tradition, the Buddha denied her several times before allowing her to ordain.This was not however due to her gender but was in fact because they were courtly women used to the extravagances of palace life and would find the harsh lives of monks of that time a struggle. According to Dhammananda Bhikkhuni: “Many people in Thailand both monastics and laypeople do not realise that there has been Bhikkunni in the region before. According to Not many in Thailand understand Buddhism truly like when the Buddha first said no to his aunt and her followers when they asked to be ordained, this was not because of their gender, but because they were women of the court, they could not handle the conditions. Many forget that the Buddha was from a time when social values were different.”( Dhammananda Bhikkhuni 2017). Since the ordinations of Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, a number of other Bhikkhuni have been ordained in Thailand now number numbering over 100 Bhikkhuni throughout Thailand.Not including the number of Sramaneris(Novices) and Mae Ji’s.

 

Due to the prohibition set by the Sangha, many Thai women instead volunteer to become Mae ji’s.Mae ji’s try to lead a devout life according to the Buddhas teachings, shaving their heads like monks and wearing white following 8-10 precepts(holy rules that must be followed) as opposed to the 331 precepts for Bhikkhuni and 227 for monks.Mae ji’s do not receive the benefits of monastics but are denied rights are are offered to lay people throughout Thailand such as being able to vote or stand for election. According to Dhammananda  Bhikkhuni Mae ji’s are a new concept and not part of traditional Buddhism: “I depend on you and you depend on me, my grandmother was illiterate, and she was a Mae ji, yet when it came to praying she knew everything. She prayed beautifully.Mae Ji’s are not ordained, nor do they receive the benefits of being so.In fact, they are more often treated like servants, having to wash the monk’s clothes and cleaning. Look at the four pillars of the Buddhist community, like legs on a chair, The Bhikkus(monks) Bhikkhunis(nuns), Laymen and Laywomen.Mae Ji’s are a new concept”.Many Mae JI’s face discrimination throughout Thailand, not only do they not have the benefits offered to other monastics such as free transport, etc., many believe they become Mae Ji’s for the wrong reasons. Many Thai people look down on Mae Ji’s feeling that they had no other option, that they could not find a husband or are using the cloak of becoming a Mae Ji to escape other problems in their life.

 

Early every morning in Thailand the streets are lined with people throughout the country, waiting to give alms to the monks. This is part of the merit system in Buddhism which is believed to bring benefits to the next life. The alms givers are predominately women however, some folklore says that women are born with bad karma and must make more merit in this life to become a man in the next. In the same sense that transgender individuals are born in the wrong body due to transgressions in their previous life, this is not true to the Buddhas original teachings however . According to Buddhist tradition It is believed that everyone is born with both good and bad karma within them and all have the same potential to reach enlightenment. It is cultural , in that same sense the culture protects you.( Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, 2017).It is not only in alms giving where women take the prominent role, also cleaning at the temple, washing , brushing and preparing for  the numerous religious festivals that take place all year round. Like the Mae Ji’s at temples many Thai women still take on the domestic responsibilities , even when it comes to religious duties. After offering alms and preparing comes the time for the religious ceremonies, this is a time when women do not take a prominent role. During religious ceremony the monks sit elevated, with the grandfathers and oldest men sitting closest to the monks, and then come the fathers and then the sons. At the back sit the women and daughters, even though the majority of alms giving  and preparation  for the ceremony was carried out by women, they sit furthest away from the monks and instead the men of the family take control of orchestrating the other attendees.History is written by by men, about men, so we start to write a story about women, from a woman’s- that is a different voice.( Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, 2012).It is not only in alms giving where women take the prominent role, also cleaning. Perspective As was mentioned before, Buddhism is a significant part of Thai peoples cultural identity, yet the male figures are dominant in Buddhism in Thailand and are the leading figures who govern the dissemination of Buddhist and patriarchal ideology. It is seen that people are punished and rewarded for carrying on in this way, people are encouraged to conform and what is viewed as masculine is also seen as superior(Mead 1949).If women were able to be seen in positions of power in a religious sense in Thailand, it would change their perception of value and empower them to take on new roles for cultural and religious traditions . The whole power dynamic and system of bunkum(system of ineptness) and sakdi na (social hierarchy).  According to Dhammananda Bhikkhuni: “I’m just a small crack in the wall; the wall of patriarchy; on the wall of the hierarchy; on the wall of injustice. Soon there will be more cracks and someday the wall will fall.”( Dhammananda Bhikkhuni,2017).The ‘Wai’ in Thailand is a significant act of social behavior in Thailand. It is a physical gesture which is  symbolic of  a person’s social standing. The wai consists of hands clasped together, prayer-like, followed with a very slight bow. There are a variety of different ways to wai, for example someone would never wai a person younger than them first or in a lower position. In a school a new and younger teacher would wai the older teacher and the students would wai the new teacher and so on. The higher someone stands socially the higher hands are to be raised with monks and royalty receiving the highest of wais, with people raising them hands to their forehead. Thai people are very sensitive to their social standing in Thailands immensely hierarchical structure. The idea of a male having to Wai a religious female monastic in Thailand is an alien concept. Even in other intuitions such as hospitals and schools men advance much further and quicker than women. If someone in a senior position wished something done, they would ask the female, even if they started the job at the same time and were both interns with the same qualifications. This may even include cleaning or simply going to get coffee, the junior female in the place of work would always be asked, and if not then it would be the more feminine man and so on. By seeing more women in as leading figures in Buddhism it would begin to effect all other parts of Thai society. Human behavior is unbelievably malleable responding and contrastingly to contrasting cultural traditions(Mead 1949).Throughout the country there are numerous temple schools where families who cannot afford schooling can send their sons to get a good education. There are few choices for girls with little education, factory workers, manual workers or even sex workers. Families believe that sending their sons to be a  monk at a temple even for a short time garners them much merit for the next life, again something which is currently not possible for girls in Thailand currently.

 

 

 

 

To avoid trouble with the greater clergy many Bhikkhuni dub their temples ‘womens meditation centres’.Bhikkhuni in Thailand have faced widespread discrimination throughout Thailand both by Bhikku(male monks) and laypeople despite many trying to lead a quiet existence. On April 20, 2016, a Bhikkhuni ‘womens meditation centre’ was burned down, the centre was run by two Bhikkhuni who may also have had land problems with their neighbours, they, however, faced many challenges before this incident with being frowned upon by the clergy. Not only do Bhikkhuni have to work extremely hard to support themselves and their centres, due to not receiving any of the benefits that other monastics get; they must also concentrate on having relations with locals. The image of Thai monks has been tainted severely over the last few years with accounts of rape, drug trafficking, smuggling amongst an array of other crimes. Similar to in the way the image of Catholic priests has been tarnished the monks in Thailand have also been, perhaps, irreparably. The social elite in Thailand also are against female ordination in Thailand as every year Thailands biggest stars, and wealthiest individuals donate millions to temples, which they frequently receive tax refunds for.Many of the wealthiest people in Thailand have made deals with famous Thai monks as it is a legitimate way to take care of some of their money and keep it ‘clean’. Not only does the Thai Sangha forbid the ordination of females on Thai soil but they have also denied visas to Bhikkhuni coming to Thailand from abroad. In 2003 the Department of National Buddhist Affairs for Thailand denied visas for multiple Bhikkhuni; both from Sri Lanka and India. Dhammananda Bhikkhuni made the following statement after the visas were denied: “Is this the way that the Department of National Buddhist Affairs is trying to preserve Buddhism? This is clearly a systematic elimination of the Bhikhunni Sangha.This is disrespectful to the allowance of the Buddha himself. ” Another example was in early 2017 when a large group of 70 Bhikhunni arrived at the grand palace intending to pay respects to the late monarch but were denied. Dhammananda Bhikkhuni had already made preparations and called to the palace for confirmation however when they arrived at the palace were denied the monastic entrance. They were told that if they wished to pay their respects, they would have to disrobe and join the other laypeople.  Earlier in the year, other groups of Bhikkhuni were also denied entrance.

 

 

It is clear that the Bhikkhuni in Thailand face an uphill battle. They fight not only ideals of gender conformity but also are faced with opposition on all sides: The Sangha, laypeople, male patriarchy and the social elites. Bhikkuni offers a new vision for Theravada Buddhism in Thailand, one free from the corruption and scandal that is currently residing in the monkhood here. It is clear that individuals such as Dhammananda Bhikkhuni strive not only for gender equality in religion but in all aspects of Thai life. Gender equality in Buddhism is, of course, the first step in empowering women in Thailand to a new future. One in which women are as valued as men and feminine qualities are also seen as powerful.When Dhammananda Bhikkhuni was asked in 2017:

What do you see as the future of the Bhikkhunis in Thailand?

She replied:
“Remember three things in life, think of yourself as in a cocoon as we are 1.To always be humble that is the most important thing,2. Be eager 3. Always seek to improve yourself. No one can stop us now, not the Sangha or others, we are growing and will continue to grow.”

An Analysis of the Sustainable Development Goals from a gender perspective. How do they compare with the former Millennium Development Goals when looked at with a gender lens?

Introduction

 

On the 25th of September 2015, the United Nations General Assembly took on the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development as the proper scheme for International Development. The Sustainable Development Goals succeeded the Millenium Development Goals. This will be a short paper evaluating and analysing how the Sustainable Development Goals compare to the previous Millenium Development Goals as well as how and if they succeed in the first place. In particular, this will be through the lens of a gender perspective.

 

 

The Millenium Development Goals

 

The Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) were a group of 8 International Development Goals to be achieved by 2015. They had been established at the Millenium Summit in 2000.The goals were: to eradicate poverty and hunger, to achieve universal primary education, to promote gender equality and empower women, to reduce child mortality, to improve maternal health, to combat  HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, to ensure environmental sustainability, to establish a global partnership for development.Each of the 189 member states of the United Nations and more than 22 International Organisations committed to trying to attain each of these goals in their countries.Many individuals and organisations complained that these were not the goals that should be focused on and that there was in fact not enough analysis given to the chosen goals. In particular Goal 3, the Goal to Promote gender equality and empower women, one of it’s primary goals was to eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by  2005 and at all levels by 2015.This was to be done by implementing fixes in a few key areas. To begin with the ratio of boys and girls in primary, secondary and tertiary education, at that time there was vast inequality and many more boys than girls studying in higher and secondary education. Next, the goals hoped to tackle the share of wages in employment in the non-agricultural sector and finally to have an equal appropriation of seats in national parliaments for women.Many argue that the Millenium Development Goals were unsuccessful in some ways, especially from a gender perspective. According to the UN MDGS Gender Chart showed how the MDGS were progressive in many ways, yet still have many issues to deal with, hopefully through the Sustainable Development Goals of 2030.For example, the MDGS were very successful regarding poverty reduction by reducing the people living in extreme poverty by over 50%.One of the MDGS goals was to achieve universal productive rights and reduce maternal mortality rates by three-quarters of the levels in 1990. The MDG achieved reducing these rates by half since 2000, yet still, one maternal death was reported every ten minutes in India, double the ambitions of the MDGs.The goals of the MDGs were based on data in the 1960s and the following of trends of where progress would happen. This clearly points out not only a failure of the UN but also a complete slowing down of movement altogether. The United Nations Development Fund said: “Inadequate funding for family planning is a major failure in fulfilling commitments to improving women’s reproductive health.” [Un representative, Un report,2012] Development ideals for the MDGs from a gender perspective could not be achieved unless the Patriarchal hierarchy can be adapted towards progression. One way that maternal death rates in Ogun were being prevented in Nigeria was by giving maternal women in remote areas cellphones. However, whenever the phones were called, it was their father or husband who answered.The phones were already being confiscated from the women and giving the phone to women from then on was pointless. Scenarios like this and other are hoped to be prevented with the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

 

The Sustainable Development Goals

As mentioned before on the 25th of September 2015, the United Nations General Assembly took on the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are planned to supersede the MDGs in some ways. The SDGs have been designed to be more comprehensive in scope, transformative for the planet and will be able to be universally applied. The MDGs were focused only on developing nations as opposed to before where the focus was almost solely on developing countries. Goal number 5 of the SDGs is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. This Goal is similar to Goal 3 of the MDGs. However, they do differ in some ways. The SDGs were formed mostly by people in the areas where the goals are to be implemented as opposed to the MDG’s which were drawn up in the UN headquarters. This a move which shows the UN trust to experts in the field rather than only office staff who may not have as many hands on experience where development is to be made. The example that was shown before of the mobile phones being taken from women in Ogun can be better implemented. The MDGs were not prepared for such situations, but  by relying on more in-depth consultation, the SDGs can help promote gender equality where development failed before. The SDGs plan to empower women more so than the MDG’s ever did by working much more closely than civil society organisations. Empowerment can be defined as a “multi-dimensional social process that helps people gain control over their own lives. It is a process that fosters power (that is, the capacity to implement) in people, for use in their own lives, their communities, and in their society, by acting on issues that they define as important” [Directorate –general for internal policies, policy department C, citizens rights and constitutional affairs]. In fact, according to UN World Survey on the Role of Women in Development 2014,” there are proven synergies between women’s empowerment and economic, social and environmental sustainability.” [Directorate –general for internal policies, policy department C, citizens rights and constitutional affairs].

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

There were many complications with the Millennium Development Goals. People argued that they were poorly implemented and did not gain the results they were intended to. They  did, however, help promote gender inequality in some ways “As of October 2013, women were 21.8 percent of parliamentarians in single or lower houses and 19.4 per cent of Senate or upper houses, up from 12 per cent and 10.1 per cent in January 1997, respectively.”[UN women.com, progress towards meeting the MDGs for women.] and “Gender parity in schooling worldwide is closest to being achieved at the primary level; however, only 2 out of 130 countries have achieved that target at all levels of education.”[MDG3, unwomen.org]. In the numerous areas that the MDGs failed to promote true gender equality, the SDGs are hoped to succeed. Development will be worked towards on a case by case basis rather than devised from UN headquarters. It is entirely possible that the SDGs will encourage equality more than before, they give individuals agency that they never had with the MDGs, it will be 2030 however before the results are shown.

 

Migrant Worker in Thailand-แรงงานข้ามชาติ

In Thailand, there are almost two million migrant workers, around eighty percent of them being Burmese. Many of the Burmese workers came in the eighties and nineties as Thailand experienced an economic boom having an average wage increase of eight percent per year. This was because the migrant Burmese workers would take up the jobs that many Thai people would not such as manufacturing and hard agricultural work. Many leave in the face of almost certain poverty for the chance of a better life.

I am Burmese and a migrant worker that is why the police don’t care about this case…. [M]y husband and I are only migrant workers and we have no rights here.

—Aye Aye Ma, from Burma, who was raped by two unknown Thai assailants after they shot and killed her husband on November 5, 2007, in Phang Nga province

This is not always the case as can be seen from this testimony by Aye Aye Ma. Many Burmese workers are bound totally to their employer. Many of the workers face extortion, physical harm and threats by government authorities. These are clear human rights abuses and are not limited to simply one area of Thailand but rather along the entirety of the country. Migrant workers face extortion at will by Thai authorities, often the value of several months wages at a time.When they cannot pay the workers are often beaten and arrested until a family member or friends can pay for their release.

Below is some quotes from the Human Rights Watch report: The tiger and the Crocodile

Whenever we are walking and talking on the street, if the police see us using the phone they will stop us and take it. If you want to talk to me about these kinds of cases, you will not be able to finish the interview today….It happens every day.

—U Win, a migrant worker from Burma in Surat Thani, August 27, 2008.

There are many dangers for workers who work at night. For example, when the workers meet Thai teenager gangs, they are robbed and beaten….The danger we face is invisible. If we were able to have mobile phones and motorcycles, we might manage to escape from the danger.[67]

—U Win, migrant worker from Burma, Muang district, Surat Thani province

If you pay money [to the police], you can do anything in our region. If you want, you can kill people … I have seen dead bodies many times by the side of the road … Our area is like a fighting zone … when the police hear the sounds of gunshots, they will not come … [later] the police will come ask what happened, and write down the information and then they go away, and that is all that happens.

—Saw Htoo, Burmese migrant worker who provided information to the Thai police, Mae Sot district, Tak province

“He was coming out of the shop. There were two police officers on a motorcycle who stopped him and asked him if he had a work permit. But he could not speak Thai and so he did not reply….Those two police started to beat him and they kicked him in the chest until he died there. Many Burmese were watching and nobody went and helped because all of the people were afraid of those police, so nobody said anything about this killing, and nobody informed the police station. When the two police saw that the boy died, they went away on their motorcycle. I saw the next morning that the rescue foundation came and took the boy’s dead body and no police officer was with them … I really wanted to help but I am afraid of those police.”

This is just a sampling of the human rights abuses and racial discrimination that Burmese workers face everyday here in Thailand.