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Cablegate: Woman of Courage" and Grass Roots Leadership

VZCZCXRO3125
PP RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHCHI #0058 0820118
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 230118Z MAR 07
FM AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0431
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK PRIORITY 0684
RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI PRIORITY 0474
RUEHVN/AMEMBASSY VIENTIANE PRIORITY 0010

UNCLAS CHIANG MAI 000058

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
DEPT FOR G/IWI

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREL KWMN KDEM KPAO TH
SUBJECT: WOMAN OF COURAGE" AND GRASS ROOTS LEADERSHIP

REF: A. A) BANGKOK 866

B. B) STATE 12871

1. To present Thailand's "Woman of Courage" award, Consulate
General Chiang Mai took advantage of a program organized by the
awardee herself, a training seminar on women and the
constitution for paralegals and community leaders from 17
northern provinces. The event marked the first occasion the
Consulate has hosted guests from all the provinces in our
consular district.

2. Embassy Bangkok and Consulate Chiang Mai nominated Assoc.
Prof. Virada Somsawasdi, founder of the Women's Studies Center
of Chiang Mai University, for her contributions to promoting the
role of women in the political and economic process in this
region. Now the President of the Foundation for Women, Law and
Rural Development, Prof. Virada has long played a key role in
women's issues and education, including selecting graduate
students from Laos for advanced studies at the Women's Center
with Rockefeller Foundation funding. Nine of these students
joined provincial Thai women leaders at a Consulate reception to
present the "Woman of Courage" award March 20.

3. By honoring Virada at a reception hosted by the Consul
General for participants in this seminar, the Consulate stepped
serendipitously into a community of new contacts with grass
roots leaders from throughout northern Thailand. These women,
representing groups such as the Self Reliance Community of
Kampangpetch, the Hmong Women's Network, and the Northern Region
Agricultural Organization, told Consulate officers that the
regular training they have received over time at the Women's
Studies Center helps them with community duties that include
administering village loan funds and mediating land disputes.

4. Our guests were engagingly eager to describe their work and
their commitment to democratic local administration. When asked
if she would like to run for parliament, an elected village
official from Phitsanulok responded with a firm "yes". What
about Prime Minister? "Yes", she said without hesitation.
Acknowledging that politicians have a poor image in Thailand
these days, she and her comrades asserted that women would be
less susceptible to corruption than their male counterparts.
An Uttaradit woman who works with community radio discussed her
concern that the new constitution will be less generous with the
"public's airwaves" and talked about the need to get the public
and activists informed about this issue.

5. Virada expressed her thanks for "the very friendly,
meaningful and memorable award ceremony", especially in the
context of the training program for local leaders. The
Consulate in turn would like to thank Embassy Bangkok and the
Department for the opportunity to highlight women's issues and
to meet with grass roots leaders whose courage and determination
give hope for the future.

CAMP

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