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Pattaya Daily News

10 August 2008 :: 16:08:44 pm 24975

Khun Mechai Inspires Students At Asian University

Asian University Summer University started on 4 August with a traditional welcome and Bi See candle lit ceremony. This year students have come from nine different countries in four continents and are here to learn about Thai culture and the way business is conducted in the region.
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So far they have enjoyed an introduction to Thai boxing, several lectures on Thailand and its culture, and presentations of My Thailand from the Asian university students perspective. On Wednesday evening, the visitors put on presentations about their home countries, and the Thais were able to learn about ways of life elsewhere. The guests treated everyone to samples of food and drink from different parts of the world; it seems beer from anywhere is welcome, but licorice sweets from Germany are an acquired taste!

As a part of this year Asian Experience, on 5 August, Asian University welcomed Khun Mechai Viravaidya (known to many Thais as Mr. Condom) to speak on some of the many activities he has been involved in.

Mr. Mechai was introduced by Dr Viphandh Roengpithya (Dr. Vip), the University president, and Mr. Keith Cheeseborough, the director of the Summer University programme. The presentation was entitled ?Thinking out of the Box and taking No as a Question?.

The presentation was in four sections starting with Population. In 1974 the average Thai family had 7 children, but as a result of Mr. Mechai?s Population and Community Development Association (PDA) campaigns this had fallen to 1.2 children per family by 2005. A large family just meant sharing everything between more people which was always going to lead to poverty. Mr. Mechai also explained that it was necessary to think differently, not just copy western ideas. Thailand?s medical services were already stretched, so why couldn?t contraceptive pills be handed out or sold by trained nurses, or even trained shopkeepers, hairdressers, dressmakers, etc? Even caddies, monks and the police (the Cops and Rubbers campaign) were engaged to promote the use of contraceptives. Interestingly, this programme began in the Banglamung area, which includes Pattaya, before spreading throughout the countrywide.

The second part of the talk was centred on HIV and Aids, and the campaigns to prevent infection. Khun Mechai explained his problems with the government of the day, which denied there was a problem, but when a new government was installed under Khun Anand Panyarachun, he became a Minister and with Khun Anand?s support was able to promote the use of condoms, and safe sex. Khun Mechai referred to condoms as weapons of mass protection!

The third part was how to get rid of poverty. Mr. Mechai stressed that population control is only part of the story. To get out of the poverty trap people do not need handouts, they need to be taught how to run businesses and have access to credit. With no collateral this has been difficult, but local schemes were established to allow the poorer people to borrow money at reasonable rates of interest and, if they hit repayment problems, they were able to offer their labour as a form of security.

The fourth part of the presentation focused on non-governmental organisations and how they can ? and should – survive without always begging for money.

The restaurants (Cabbages and Condoms), resorts, hotels and shops operated by PDA have become well known, and successful in raising money to help the projects. So it is appropriate that the farewell dinner for the Summer University this year is scheduled to be held at the Cabbages and Condoms restaurant in Bangkok.

One of the Summer University visitors, Deb, who is from Australia, thanked Mr. Mechai and gave him a small gift. Dr. Vip also gave his friend Mr. Mechai a gift to thank him for coming to the University.

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : PDN staff   Category : Announcement News

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