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Village Scouts

The Government revived the village scout movement in 2011, aimed at bringing about reconciliation and harmonization, in line with one of its urgent policies. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has signed an order appointing a Committee on Reconciliation and Harmonization, which would carry out village scout activities in order to promote harmony and unity among the people.

The committee is chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Police General Kowit Wattana, with representatives from various ministries and village scout clubs in all regions of the country as members. At its first meeting on 03 October 2011, the committee was told that Prime Minister Yingluck wanted all sectors of Thai society to protect the institution of the monarchy. To achieve this aim, it is necessary to foster reconciliation and harmonization, while restoring democracy at the same time. In this way, the Government needs cooperation from civil society, and the village scout movement is part of civil society.

The committee was entrusted with setting guidelines for the mobilization of the reconciliation program through village scout activities. The program must encourage public participation in showing loyalty to the three pillars of Thai society, namely the Nation, the Religion, and the Monarchy. It will also seek to promote the national identity, reduce social division, and fight the drug problem. The program will be launched officially on November 15 this year.

The village scout movement in Thailand originated from the battle between Thai authorities and communist terrorists along the Thailand borders in the northeast of Thailand, particularly in 1968, when a lot of villages in Dan Sai, Loei Province, were seized and the collision between the two groups was violent. Although the communist terrorists were suppressed by the Thai authorities so that their force scattered, they still seized the areas to disseminate the communist ideology secretly. This was the starting point of organizing the Border Patrol Police Volunteer and “Sub-district Guards” and training the villagers in guarding their villages applying scout-related methods in 1969. Gathering of the villagers’ power at that time led to official training of the first batch of village scouts in August 1971. After the training was ended, scout training programs were extended to different areas along the Thailand borders, then throughout different regions, and finally to all provinces of Thailand.

The village scout training helped to create unity among civil servants, merchants, businessmen, and general people. Furthermore, it eliminated the gaps and parallels between civil servants and general people following the statement of His Majesty the King Bhumibol and Her Majesty the Queen Sirikit about the creation of unity among Thais. Therefore, a detailed story about the village scout training was proposed to His Majesty the King.

Founded in 1971 underthe joint aegis of the Border Patrol Police and the Ministry ofthe Interior, it was evidently then conceived as a para-military, anti-communist rural security organization. Later on 19 March 1972, His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen presided over activities of village scouts at the Border Patrol Police, Udon Thani Province. They were satisfied with their activities; therefore, they granted them 100,000 baht as a fund for purchasing scarves, Gilwell woggles, and Na Seua (emblem of the National Scout Organization of Thailand). They also patronized the village scouting under the King Patronage, and since then they have conferred a batch flag on all batches of village scouts.

The village scout process was later paid less interest. However, once Thailand confronted economic, social and political problems, which required the unity of all groups in the country, various agencies revived the village scout process through, e.g. setting up the Village Scout Training Project throughout the country and organizing activities that allowed village scouts to make contributions to the public. By 2004 the Village Scouts had reappeared. In The Nation on November 29, 2004 it was reported that “The 20,000 Village Scouts whorallied yesterday at Sanam Luang [royal grounds in Bangkok] from throughout theKingdom, brandishing national flags and belting out a Cold War-era patriotic song, were treated to a promise by one of their leaders that their ‘separatist’ enemies in the South would soon be driven out of the country.”

The Village Scouts were allegedly set up to be non-political. Actually, they had been political tools of the business and landlord groups. The Ministry of the Interior played an important role in organizing the Village Scouts, and wealthy businessmen and merchants supported them financially. Their true nature was observable in the April 1976 elections, at which time they campaigned heavily - and with some success ­ for right-wing and military candidates. The overall organization of the Village Scouts claimed primary loyalty to the Nation, Religion, and King. The Village Scouts became, after the fall of the dictators, ever more openly a means for building up an activist constituency for royalist politics.

For the Scouts' leaders, royal patronage made it easy to legitimize private, localized repression of protesting peasants and student activists as essential for the preservation of Nation-Religion-King. For the palace, it provided continuous public evidence of militant political support, outside the Bangkok upper class, among the "establishments" of provincial capitals, small towns, and even some villages. The word "Village" in its title gave a reassuring, if deceptive, picture of rustic communities organizationally engaged - as it were, a concrete manifestation of the natural ties between "Nation" and "King."

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Page last modified: 08-04-2012 18:43:12 ZULU