Pattaya City Expats Club members are briefed on the progress of Baan Kok
Klang Noi by the Village Development Committee.
B. Woods Mattingley
In the sixties, when Mechai Viravaidya (the privileged
son of a prominent Thai family, who was then also the Thai Minister of
Health) visited villages, he found children, more each year. The Thai
population was soaring, and Mechai and his staff knew that population growth
would soon overwhelm the country. Thailand was a poor country, and many of
its people were rice farmers.
As Mechai studied village life, he realized that instead
of making more money for himself, he really wanted to change lives.
Thus, in 1974, Mechai founded the NGO (or
non-governmental organization) called Population and Community Development
Association. Initially it promoted family planning, but when HIV developed,
PDA fostered AIDS education and the use of condoms to prevent sexually
Pattaya City Expats Club members receive a traditional
welcome from village elders at Baan Kok Klang Noi.
Mechai later developed the Cabbages and Condoms
restaurant chain, with its profits providing funding for PDA. He also
founded various C and C Resorts in Thailand, including Birds and Bees Resort
in Pattaya. Instead of pestering people for donations, C and C invited
restaurant-goers to have a good meal, in a “No Glove, No Love” atmosphere.
The concept worked. C and C grew, and with it, PDA developed village-run
programs to lift people out of poverty.
Recently, through their membership in Pattaya City Expats
Club, a small group of donors was invited to tour the group’s own
PDA-sponsored village in Buriram Province in northern Thailand. The trip was
For years in America, I had been fascinated by
micro-credit, whereby people with limited means could borrow money from a
local micro-credit bank, repay that loan over time, and establish their own
In the United States, many may think of new businesses
costing hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars to establish, and
usually substantial bank or private loans are required.
The Baan Kok Klang Noi
But in still-developing Thailand, PCEC donor/members
recently visited the 350-person Baan Kok Klang Noi village whose average
income is THB25,000 per person per year.
Villagers of Baan Kok Klang Noi, Pattaya City Expats Club (sponsors), and
staff of the Population & Community Development Association (NGO) pose in
front of the project signboard in Buriram.
PDA’s Village Development Project (VDP) is BKKN’s backer.
After 35 BKKN villagers planted 10,000 trees, PDA initially invested
THB300,000 in the Village Development Bank (VDB) - but the cost of training,
community empowerment, management, and PDA oversight, was covered by the
remaining 500,000 baht. The 300,000 baht investment funded the bank, and
allowed for initial loans to be made to the villagers.
To become eligible for a loan, villagers had to become
bank shareholders and make regular deposits for six months. Only after a
shareholder accumulates a sufficient balance is he permitted to apply for a
loan. Loan decisions are made by Village Development Bank members.
Because Thailand is still developing, a village may loan
entrepreneurial monies for a food stand, a handicraft business, motorcycle
repair shop, tailor shop, or for catfish or pig-raising. The new business
owner starts a business with his loan from the VDB, and begins repaying his
loan monthly. As the loans are repaid - and historically most loans are
repaid in full - the bank can make other loans. This is grassroots
micro-credit lending in action - it works. The real plus: there is no middle
man bleeding off village profits.
Baan Kok Klang Noi is villager-run: villagers are trained
in banking, accounting and financial management (and why it’s necessary to
save money), income generation (developing small businesses to become
sustainable), village water storage planning/tank construction and the
piping of water for irrigation (to provide rice and vegetables for sale),
education (students chosen to attend the highly recognized Lamplaimat
Pattana School), health (for sanitation planning, H1N1 and HIV/AIDS
prevention, and to learn about dental care and flossing), and the
environment (tree planting).
There is also the Green Village Toy Library, which is run
and managed by village youth. Initially toys were donated to the library;
more will come. In order for a youths to borrow a toy from the library,
she/he has to do community volunteer work. Toys may be borrowed for a week
at a time, and the Junior Leaders meticulously record which toy is being
loaned, to whom, and for how long. I was particularly struck by how
meticulous the leaders were in toy record keeping.
Where does PDA obtain its initial village bank
investment? PDA seeks financial commitments from companies or organizations
wishing to sponsor a village. As members of Pattaya City Expats Club, our
group made the financial commitment to fund the necessary one million baht
required for a village bank; however, in the case of Baan Kok Klang Noi, PDA
had already accomplished some preliminary work from its budget’s leftover
For that reason, and because Baan Kok Klang Noi is a
smaller village than most, PDA determined that 800,000 baht would suffice.
PCEC’s Friends of PDA donated 500,000 baht, but when they could not reach
the required goal of one million baht, one of the PCEC members who is also a
member of Rotary Clubs International, Philip Wall Morris, went before his UK
Rotary Club, and they made a substantial donation of 100,000 baht. Those
Rotary Club monies, when added to PCEC’s Friends of PDA funds, plus 200,000
given by Mechai, himself, funded the Baan Kok Klang Noi Village Bank.
“Field of Dreams” - Villagers in Baan Kok Klang Noi pose
with Pattaya City Expats Club members and staff of the Population &
Community Development Association (NGO) in front of one of their projects.
With funding from the World Bank, the Thai Government,
and the Village Development Project, the village has already constructed two
large-capacity water tanks, and this water can be bought by BKKN village
farmers at the low rate of 3 baht per cubic meter. The village has plans to
construct additional tank(s) and to lay more piping for irrigation.
These villages are successful because participating
villagers must “buy into” their village, as all projects are villager
designed and operated. The villager must “own” his village. When people own
their lives, and do not have to rely upon others or the government, success
occurs; self-reliance works.
Over the past 20 years, the VDP model has been used in
over 400 villages. Baan Kok Klang Noi is an excellent example of what
sustainable villages may become, not only in Thailand, but in other Asian
countries with similar populations.
Mechai, the original “Mister Condom,” has fulfilled his
ideal of creating spectacular change in rural Thailand.
Are you interested? Can you interest your company or club
in sponsoring a new village? What can you do to help? Your 100 baht per week
or even 1,000 baht per month, in concert with others, may be all it takes to
change a village. Change a village; change a life.
Please call PDA (02-229-4611, extension 810, or email
Paul Salvette at paulsalvette @gmail.com) to invite one of its
representatives to speak to your company or organization. Or you may contact
Mechai Viravaidya directly at: Mechai@pda.or.th. PDA’s website is:
Online donations are also possible via: http://pdi-global.org/how2donate.asp
(Thanks go to David Garmaise, founder of PCEC’s Friends of PDA, and PDA’s
Paul Salvette, in Bangkok, for the vetting of this story.)
The baht has continued weakening because investors are
concerned over the renewed violent clashes between the military and
anti-government United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship-led protesters,
according to the Bank of Thailand (BoT).
BoT Assistant Governor Suchada Kirakul said foreign investors
had apparently begun to sell the baht and remit the dollar home to a certain
Sales of the baht are still proceeding although the volume
remains thin, she said.
The spate of political violence has shaken investor
confidence. Some sold shares and brought money to invest in other instruments,
particularly in bonds.
She said the baht is now considered volatile by itself and in
tandem with the global situation, but its volatility is not heavier than that of
other regional currencies.
Currency is still moving at an acceptable level. Although
foreign investors sold the baht and purchased dollars to remit money home,
earners of incomes in foreign currencies are waiting for the perfect timing to
sell the dollar, resulting in a balancing of the currency movement.
On a comment by a top economist that the baht was very likely
to touch 31.5 to the dollar at year-end, Suchada said the currency had both
strengthened and weakened.
Although Thailand has experienced internal and external
difficulties, the economy continues growing partly because of the global
She revealed the BoT’s Monetary Policy Committee earlier
wanted to see the policy interest rate return to a normal level, its hopes were
dashed by the current political crisis. (TNA)