Bangkok and Burma

International Labor Organizing Organizing

marble_temple_bangkokSilver Springs It’s the time of year when the Organizers’ Forum ( begins to send out the call for the international dialogue to community and labor organizers who are interested in learning about the work of their counterparts in other countries and sharing their own experiences.  This year the board has approved the international dialogue as a visit to Bangkok and border area between Myanmar/Burma and Thailand during the period from October 4th through October 9th .  Early discussions indicate this is going to be an exciting and significant experience for the delegation.

Needless to say in the tradition of past dialogues, Thailand has been in the news over the last year.  At various times either yellow shirted or red shirted marchers have been leading huge protests, including shutting down the international airport for days at one point over the legitimacy of various governments. This is complicated stuff, but fortunately our old friend, Rudy

Porter, who helped us so much so much in Jakarta, is now directing the AFL’s Solidarity Center in Bangkok and will be able to guide us again!  He will also be helping introduce us to unions that are still organizing.

Somehow we seem lucky this trip in having friends with deep relationships to people and organizations in Thailand.  Our Korean comrade, Na, has worked with community organizations there and Fides Bagasso of LOCOA may be there at the same time we are doing training for organizers in their Asian network which would be a huge treat for all of us!  The Forum for the Global South is located in Bangkok and so is the headquarters for Asian housing based organizing.

Our biggest problem may be how to see everyone we are going to want to visit!

This problem gets even harder, if that is possible when we venture towards the border and refugee area.  On Wednesday evening we will go to Chiang Mae and then on Thursday morning van over to Mai Sot where 150,000 refugees live in various camps and conditions, many dating to 1988 and the military coup in Burma.  The big advantage we have here is that the area has been a special project of our friends at the British Columbia Government Employees Union (BCGEU), and they have generously detailed Mike Orders of their staff who has visited the area several times to help put this part of the Dialogue together.  Yesterday I got several pages of notes of groups from women’s refugee organizations to health clinics to community, labor, and political groups that might merit a visit.  Luckily, Mike is already sorting the opportunities into a group A and a group B.  We’ll come back to Chiang Mae on Friday night to finish the dialogue, but as usual I’m betting some of delegation may stay over a couple of days.  The word on Chiang Mae and the area is that it is quite something to see in its own right.

We already have interest from community organizers in Iowa, Ontario, and Maryland and labor interest from Seattle, Vancouver, and Montreal, so don’t dilly-dally, but send an email to and stake your claim to a seat in the delegation.  You handle the air fare and a program fee, and the Forum handles the lodging and food.  Unfortunately for Thailand, but luckily for us, the prices are good if we move quickly.

Talk to someone who has been to one of the earlier dialogues in Brasil, India, South Africa, Indonesia, Turkey, Russia, or Australia.  This is a great experience for senior organizers, and we would enjoy having as many of you as we can accommodate.