The initiative strengthens cultural ties, fostering ‘Building Strong Cross-Border Communities’ to address emerging Non-Traditional Security challenges sustainably. “Nong Khai and Vientiane, Lao PDR, July 17-21, 2023: The 1st Mekong Linkage Workshop : Connecting Nations, Linking People , funded by the Mekong-ROK Cooperation Fund, addressed Non-Traditional Security challenges in the region. The summit gathered 90 operational-level government officials, both Thai and Lao including district chiefs, district chiefs assistant, sub-district headmen, village headmen, project staff, and security experts. Managed by the Department of Provincial Administration(DOPA), Ministry of Interior Thailand, and the Mekong Institute – MI.” The workshop aimed to enhance collaboration among district chiefs, Communities  leaders , and key figures from Thailand and Laos. Focusing on empowering local officials, the event addressed Non-Traditional  Security (NTS) challenges  especially human trafficking, drug smuggling , Illegal. Through informative lectures, hands-on SWOT analysis, and site visits to the significant historical and tourist locations in Laos, the program fostered relationships, promoting positive interactions for future collaborations.

Capacity building on NTS Literacy

At the Panlan Boutique Resort in Nong Khai Province. The project organized training sessions to empower Thai officials with up-to-date knowledge and strategies for managing and mitigating new security challenges along the border. The training aimed to inspire and empower officials to become change agents, leading transformative efforts in addressing new security challenges. Knowledgeable speakers covered various topics to equip participants for effective action in their communities. Knowledgeable speakers covered various topics by following ; .

  • The Dynamic of Non – Traditional Security (NTS) in the Mekong Region by General Jerdwut Kraprayoon, Advisor to the Senate Committee on Military and National Security
  • Non – Traditional Security (NTS) in the Mekong Region and the role of provincial Administration by Mr. Rachan Soonhua,The governor of Nongkhai
  • Establish  strong international  communities:  The shield for  sustainable preventing  Non -Traditional Security (NTS).  By Dr. Radthawit Tangkiayphachara, President of the Thai-Cambodian Border Trade and Tourism Association
  • The legal framework of the countries in the Mekong Region by The representative of Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Visit to “Vientiane”: Strengthening Ties Between Thai-Lao Border Leaders

Continuing their engagement, the delegation crossed over to Vientiane, the capital of Laos,  where the Laos Plaza Hotel hosted the official opening ceremony of the Mekong Linkage Workshop (Thailand – Lao North-Central). Ms. Wijaraporn Amatayakul, Director of the Technical Services and Planning Bureau at the Department of Provincial Administration, Ministry of Interior, Thailand, graced the event with a welcoming address. Leaders from local administrations in both Thailand and Laos contributed to the warm atmosphere. Notably, this marked the first large-scale official meeting for leaders from counterpart cities in the border area, bringing together administrative officials from both sides for a significant encounter. On the Thai side, the delegation comprises 8 provinces and 17 districts, including Chiang Rai (Chiang Khong, Wiang Kaen, Chiang Saen, and Thoeng), Nan (Chaloem Phra Kiat, Song Khwae), Loei (Tha Li, Dan Sai, Na Haeo, Chiang Khan, and Pak Chom), Uttaradit (Ban Khok), Phayao (Phu Sang), and Nong Khai (Mueang Nong Khai, Phon Phisai, Si Chiang Mai, and Sangkhom). Meanwhile, the Laotian delegation from the North-Central region comes from 4 districts and 13 districts , including Bokeo ( Huay Xai , Ton Pheung),  Sainyaburi ( Khop, Xianghon,  Kaenthao,  Paklai, Boten,Ngoen)  Vientiane ( Sanakham), and Vientiane Capital (Hatxayfong,  Pakngum,  Sikhotabong, and Sangthong).” Following that, there was an activity aimed at strengthening the relationship between the two countries through a panel discussion on the topic ‘Thai-Lao Relations and Building Relationships between People in the Border Areas.’ Distinguished speakers from both Thailand and Laos included ;

  • Mr. Vachara Pawutiyawong, Royal Thai Embassy Counsellor in Vientiane
  • Mr. Kaysone Khounlavongsa, Deputy Director Division: (Lao-Thai Cooperation Division), Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Ms. Lamngeune Souliyavong (PhD), Researcher and Lecturer in the Planning Development Department of the Faculty of Environmental Sciences at the National University of Laos
  • Dr. Thanachate Wisaijorn (PhD), Head of the Government Department of the Faculty of Political Science at Ubon Ratchathani University

During the discussion, participants highlighted the close relationship between Thailand and Laos, particularly in cultural aspects where there is significant similarity. Language, in particular, was emphasized as a unique strength, as the two countries are among the few in the world that can communicate without the need for interpreters, showcasing the strong bond between their people.”

First Time with SWOT Analysis: Collaborative Strengths and Challenges on Both Sides of the Border

Following that, participants from both Thailand and Laos in the seminar collaborated to conduct a SWOT analysis. This analysis aimed to assess the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats concerning the Thai-Lao relationship at the local level. It marked the first occasion for leaders from both sides to formally discuss various issues in every dimension. The objective was to seek collaboration in working together, with groups organized based on districts directly opposite each other along the border. There were four groups created for this purpose:

  1. Group 1: Chiang Khong, Chiang Saen and Wiang Kaen (Thailand) – Houay Xay and Ton Phoeng (Lao PDR)
  2. Group 2: Chaloem Phrakiat (Thailand)  –  Khop, Xieng Hone and Ngoen (Lao PDR)
  3. Group 3: Na Haeo, Dan Sai, Tha Li, Ban Khok (Thailand) – Kenethao, Pak Lay and Boten (Lao PDR)
  4. Group 4: Chiang Khan, Pak Chom (Thailand) –  Sanakham, Pak Ngum, Si Khottabong , Hat Xay Fong ,Sangthong (Lao PDR)

Summary of Findings:

Strengths: Cultural and linguistic similarities, creating a strong foundation. Weaknesses: Challenges in law enforcement due to natural terrain and channels for illegal activities. Opportunities: Development of international checkpoints, collaborative state-sponsored events, and sports promotion. Threats: Environmental degradation, natural disasters, and border disputes.

Building Strong Relationships among Leaders: Genuine Friendship Beyond Meeting Rooms

As part of the project’s efforts to strengthen relationships, a bonding activity was organized, taking participants from the project to explore significant sites in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. The itinerary included visits to Wat Si Saket, the Emerald Buddha Hall, Pha That Luang, and the Xieng Khuan Buddha Park. Additionally, participants explored natural sites such as Pha Tung and Pha Hom, as well as the scenic Bolaven Plateau. The objectives of this activity were to foster closer ties among leaders from both sides. It is widely acknowledged that genuine friendships and strong relationships often develop outside formal meeting settings. Allowing participants to spend time together freely promotes the exchange of ideas and strengthens the bonds between them. The activity aimed to create an environment where leaders felt comfortable sharing insights and building a rapport that extends beyond professional interactions. This informal approach is expected to yield positive outcomes in future collaborations. The increased familiarity among leaders from both sides is anticipated to expedite coordination, enhance information sharing, and bolster joint efforts in preventing transnational crimes. The mutual understanding cultivated through such activities contributes to a foundation of trust, positioning the leaders to work together more efficiently in the future.

Moving Forward: Building “Strong  Cross- Border Communities”

Regarding future cooperation, participants from both sides expressed approval for the concept of Building strong cross-border communities.  This is seen as a crucial avenue for fostering cooperation and mutual understanding within the region. The proposed principles for such collaboration include:

  1. Educating laws and regulations for both so they can understand the counterpart laws, rules context and can avoid unintentional legal violations or offenses due to lack of awareness.
  2. Applying Justice and Human Ethics in Decision-Making: Given the sensitive nature and diverse issues in border areas, relying solely on legal measures may be insufficient. Leaders in the region must exercise ethical judgment, especially in matters related to human life and well-being, ensuring that decisions prioritize the best interests of the people.
  3. Uniform Enforcement of the Law: Consistent standards for law enforcement are emphasized, with the principle that the treatment of individuals should be the same regardless of nationality. This approach aims to build trust by ensuring equal and fair treatment for everyone, discouraging selective enforcement.

The collaborative effort reflects a commitment to addressing shared challenges, promoting understanding, and establishing a framework for equitable and cooperative action in border areas.” Overall, it is believed that if both neighboring communities are strengthened and developed togethe, it will prevent transnational criminal organizations from causing issues in the area. Strengthened and mutually developed communities would be vigilant, understanding, and collectively watchful, leading to a gradual reduction in criminal activities. The strength of the local communities will serve as a shield, enhancing the security of the entire area.