In November 2018, the General Election Network for Disability Access (AGENDA) interviewed participants of its "Strategic Communications and Advocacy" training in Jakarta, Indonesia. The training brought together disabled people’s organizations (DPOs) and civil society organizations (CSOs) from eight countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Community. AGENDA, a network of DPOs and election-focused CSOs in Southeast Asia, was founded by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) in 2011. An English transcript of the interview with advocates from Thailand is available below and has been edited for clarity.
Tolhas: Hi everyone, this is Tolhas Damanik. I am the Disability Rights Advisor from AGENDA. We are in Jakarta today. We are glad that we have three colleagues from DPOs in Thailand. AGENDA and IFES organized [a] training on Communication Strategy and Advocacy, that [helps prepare] the DPOs for the adoption of the ASEAN Enabling Masterplan 2025. This is something that we hope that will [be] coming soon. Today we are going to talk about the training and the experiences of our colleagues here participating the training, but let’s the first ask them to introduce themselves. OK, so start from Ekkamol, please introduce yourself.
Ekkamol: Hi, my name is Ekkamol Phaetthayanan. I am representing Thailand Association of the Blind. I am the consultant to the president Mr. Torpong Selan.
Tolhas: Welcome to Jakarta Mr. Ekkamol, Peerapong?
Peerapong: [speaking Thai] Good morning everyone, so my name is Peerapong Jarusarn from Thailand Association of the Blind. My position is the Secretary of Executive Board Member of TAB, Thailand Association of the Blind.
Tolhas: OK, Welcome to Jakarta Mr. Peerapong, and Apple next.
Apple: Yes, hi everyone, my name is Nantanoot Suwannawut also called Apple. I am also an Executive Committe member of the Thailand Association of the Blind.
Tolhas: OK, nice to meet you Apple, and I think this is the good time for us to discuss because all of us already [over the last] four days [have been] participating in the training here in Jakarta. I just want to ask all of you guys about your experiences participating in this training. My first question -- maybe each of you can answer this question -- what [are] the skills that [you] need to have as an advocate for the ASEAN Enabling Masterplan? Maybe start from Apple first.
Apple: For me just advocacy is just like [doing] outreach, so we highly recommend that as the communication strategy. Right, right, so we should plan it before and then just step by step, and to be familiarized with all the tools, the advocacy tools, and come up with effective materials that kind of track that topic.
Tolhas: How about you, Mr. Peerapong?
Peerapong: Thank you for the good question. In my opinion, I think the importantt skill is how to use social media for campaigns or [to] raise the awareness in public to make [people] understand clearly about the Enabling ASEAN Masterplan.
Tolhas: So how do you think the social media can support your efforts on campaigning for the Masterplan?
Peerapong: In the present day, I think majority of persons, we cannot deny that we use social media. Every day, every time, so I think every social media, just for my opinion, right now Facebook is [used my many] people though, if the DPOs would like to [use it to] campaign the Enabling Masterplan, they should learn a lot how to use social media with the big…
Tolhas: With a big, a.. with a wider society.
Peerapong: [Yes] and how to use by positive way, you know.
Tolhas: OK, OK, good point. How about you, Ekkamol? What do you think the skills that advocates for disability [rights] need to have for the implementation of this Masterplan?
Ekkamol: Well, I think apart from the media or the advocacy tools or the channel that we may need to have the skills to create it, the message itself is very important. Because when you want to send the message to the public or to the government officials, you need to make it like clear, innovative, and you have to make it impactful when you send the message. So, I think the skills to create the very like an effective message is another point. And apart from that, apart from the skills, I think the knowledge itself is also important. We want to advocate about disability issues too, so absolutely we need to understand the nature, the needs with all types of disability, and we need to learn a bit, ma be not a bit, but a lot about Enabling Masterplan itself, and we may need to learn a little bit about the legislation in our country.
Tolhas: So, do you think that this four-day training already give you the skills like what you expect when you came to this training?
Ekkamol: Yes I think, like in the first day, we learned a lot about the structure of the ASEAN, we learned a lot about the Masterplan itself, even it has not been officially launched, and at the second day, we learned about how we can create a very effective message, and then, in the third day, we learned how to make advocacy tools, and at the last day we learned a lot about harmonization of the domestic law with the Masterplan, CRPD.
Tolhas: So how about you Apple, do you feel the same too?
Apple: Yeah, four days… I recall pretty much like Ekkamol covered very much like referring [to] the main goal of the advocacy, like skill and knowledge and also apart from the knowledge that we get we can just learn experiences from other friends as well.
Tolhas: OK, how about you Peerapong?
Peerapong: According to my friend’s answers and my answer that I gave to you, a skill about social media, you know, that’s my new knowledge, to think about how to send the message with a clarity and more impact in society, and innovative. …After that, when I go to my hometown, I will think a lot before send every message.
Tolhas: OK…having this ASEAN Enabling Masterplan on Disability 2025 is an excellent thing for us in ASEAN, but it is important also to make sure all countries will implement this Masterplan so ASEAN will be more inclusive for persons with disabilities, and it is also important to remind us that we need the government to implement this Masterplan. So, as an advocate for persons with disabilities, what is the message that you think the government should know about the Masterplan, especially the government of Thailand?
Ekkamol: For me, most importantly, I would send one message to the government that as the Masterplan is aimed to mainstream the rights pf persons with disabilities, or in other words, it will create inclusive society for all, so it is not the responsibility of only one organization or only one government agency. It is not the responsibility of the Department of the Empowerment of Persons with Disability, but it must be the collaboration and the willingness of all government agencies to work together in order to achieve the goals of the ASEAN Masterplan.
Tolhas: How about Apple, what do you think the message that the government must know about the ASEAN Enabling Masterplan on Disability?
Apple: Since this is like the regional framework and as the national law I think we should make our law to be compliant to this framework, and so that we should,because now we are in the ASEAN community, we have friends, right? The Thai government, other governments [of ASEAN] countries so we are not alone, so we can work together, ASEAN as a community. …Once this [becomes] our domestic law to be harmonized with this regional framework that we can just work together and be more inclusive in the region.
Tolhas: So how about you, Mr. Peerapong, what kind of message would you like your government to know about the Masterplan?
Peerapong: Well actually, … I am representing Thailand Association of the Blind. … I think we are the one, the one organization that strongly advocates, especially person who [have visual disabilities], so, firstly I would like to convince, the government to understand the whole concept of the Enabling ASEAN Masterplan. Actually I don’t want the Thailand government to know about the message, but I would like Thai Government to believe that the Enabling ASEAN Masterplan is the masterpiece of the ASEAN to make the ASEAN to be the good example, a successful the campaign like “no one has left behind” by the ASEAN Masterplan.
Tolhas: So this also will follow the legal framework that we already have in the international level, regional level, and we want it also to have in the national.
Tolhas: OK IFES-AGENDA already invited representatives of DPOs from 7 ASEAN countries to participate in this training, and I think this is also a good chance for you to know each other and to know the advocacy efforts that [have] already [been] organized or conducted in these countries of ASEAN. So, how did you enjoy the exchange sharing during this training? How and what kind of good things and interesting things you have received from other colleagues during this training? Maybe start with you, Mr. Peerapong.
Peerapong: Actually, Mr. Tolhas, I would like to promote the good example from my country, Thailand, about the accessible format or the accessible issue. It come from my colleague Dr. Nanthanoot, Dr. Apple, when we created some posters, you know created the posters to campaign how the Enabling Masterplan [is] important. Never forget to put QR code in order to make [sure] everyone can access the information. That’s a good point that I’ve learned. First, in the classroom, I and Dr. Apple forgot it. We are totally blind but we, we, we forgot it. [laughs] That’s really important.
Tolhas: And also I remember you always mentioned about introducing your name first when you start to talk, and then I learned to mention like “Hey, OK this is Tolhas speaking” and mention everything I want. Good, how about you Mr. Ekkamol, what you have learned or what you get from other colleagues from other countries?
Ekkamol: I am very impressed with the participants from other countries, especially participants who have different types of disability, because we can help each other. Sometime when I am getting lost [laughs] in the meeting room, participants from other countries who [use] wheelchairs can direct me to the right table [to] tell me where to sit, so I think, maybe diversity is very beautiful.
Tolhas: OK, how about you Apple?
Apple: Right, as Ekkamol said, because we are very supportive in the group. Because it’s across disability, and also we learned the other experience like when they give the example in the classroom like how to harmonize how to come up with some campaigns in certain countries and we learned the different cultures that affect our activities, for example like in some countries we cannot do this we cannot do that and what is the alternatives we of course we learn and each persons have different background and it is very and different characters we can learn from each other a lot and this is very wonderful and very active group of participants including the resource persons like you too.
Tolhas: Thank you. I think all DPOs work together, do advocacy together, work hand in hand, this is something we really expect for making us to be more inclusive, not only for persons with disabilities but for all. So, thank you very much guys for this wonderful conversation. I really hope that we can come back in the next interview session, and we’re really excited [for] the next launching of the ASEAN Enabling Masterplan in Bangkok, together with the celebration of the International Day of Disability. So, thank you very much guys, this is Tolhas Damanik speaking from Jakarta, good bye.