Anti-corruption brew in Thailand — UNDP opens first “Refuse To Be Corrupt” café for Thai youth

Thailand’s first Thai Youth Anti-Corruption Network “Refuse To Be Corrupt” café opened on 8 June 2015 at Ubon Ratchanthani University in the northeast of Thailand.
The project is a partnership between United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), True Coffee, Anti-corruption Organisation of Thailand, Khon Kaen University, and Ubon Ratchathani University. The partnership provides students with professional knowledge and means to set up and run the cafés, which serve as active communities for the students to tackle the enemy of Thai society: Corruption.
In Thailand, corruption is a serious and complex issue, affecting many strands of Thai society. “The future must not belong to the corrupt few who steal the country’s resources”, said Luc Stevens, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Thailand. “The future of Thailand must be won by educated youth who seek transparency, accountability and justice. This is a vision we will support.”
A second “Refuse To Be Corrupt” café in Khon Kaen University is due to open in September 2015. From here, the project will expand to other campuses. A social enterprise managed by the Thai Youth Anti-Corruption Network students’ clubs at university level, the ‘Refuse To Be Corrupt” café seeks to be the anchor of anti-corruption advocacy efforts in campuses.
The café is a space created by the youth and for the youth to meet and discuss issues, share their views among peers, organize events and map out plans to tackle corruption within their universities, communities, and beyond. The “Refuse To Be Corrupt” cafés use a business model that does not aim at maximizing profits. Instead, the cafés advance and achieve the social vision of a “corruption-free society”.
A University Students’ Integrity Survey of 1,255 students, jointly conducted in 2014 by UNDP and the College of Local Administration of Khon Kaen University found that Thai youth understand the concept and the importance of integrity. However, there is a gap between what they say they believe and how they would actually behave, a so-called integrity gap.
Over 60% of students surveyed said they would use connections or pay bribes to obtain an unfair advantage. Over half says that at their university, students frequently turn in papers written by someone else.
“It’s clear that the students have a sense of right and wrong, but the influence of existing rules, norms, and practices might make it harder for them to grow in integrity,” says Martin Hart-Hansen, UNDP Thailand’s Deputy Resident Representative. “UNDP is working to push for real changes. Students are the centre of all the action because they understand the issues, as revealed in this survey. We are here to back them up, to build them a solid stage, so that the gap is lessened and that their beliefs and behaviours can come closer to alignment.”
Kwanpadh Suddhi-Dhamakit, Programme Analyst, UNDP Thailand, explains that “each year, approximately US$3 billion of government funds are allocated to public universities. However, corruption issues in Thai universities do not receive much attention from the public.
Universities are perceived as privileged spaces for academic learning. The hierarchical administrative systems and relationships between students, professors, and administration staff have also contributed to a culture of silence on issues related to bribery, patronage, and abuse of resources. Empowering university students with knowledge and tools would help break this culture of silence and improve governance and leadership of public universities in the long run”.
For more information, please contact:
Mr. Kwanpadh Suddhi-Dhamakit, Programme Analyst with UNDP in Thailand
M: (+66) 83614 7888