On February 8, 2024, in Bueng Kan: Under the directive of Ms. Wijaraporn Amatayakul, Director of the Technical Services and Planning Bureau at the Department of Provincial Administration, Ministry of Interior, Ms. Sukhumarn Wiriyothin, Director of the Foreign Affairs Division, was tasked with leading the project team of “Enhancing people-to-people connectivity to address Non-Traditional Security in the Mekong Region (NTS-Mekong Watch).” The team convened for a follow-up session on February 7-8, 2024, in three districts of Bueng Kan Province: Pak Khat, Mueang Bueng Kan, and Bung Khla.

The NTS-Mekong Watch project promotes NTS literacy, empowers Change Agents, and fosters best practices for “Building Strong Cross-Border Communities” to address NTS in the Mekong Region, supported by the Mekong-Republic of Korea Cooperation Fund (MKCF).

Various activities are undertaken to combat NTS, including the establishment of the NTS-Mekong Watch Coordination Center (NTS-MWCC) with community participation, initiated in December 2023. The center aims to enhance community participation in reporting incidents/crimes, such as cross-border drug trafficking, human trafficking, and illegal entry into the country.

The district officers provided a summary of the outcomes following the establishment of the NTS-MWCC in their respective districts. The coordination center is primarily focused on tackling the pervasive issue of drug trafficking, which poses a significant challenge in Bueng Kan Province due to the presence of numerous natural routes and unmarked border areas that facilitate illicit activities.

During this event, the NTS- Mekong Watch project team listened to issues, obstacles, and suggestions for project implementation from the local community. Requests included support for modern technology, boosting morale, and encouraging Village Security Volunteers (VSVs) to improve efficiency in patrolling and intercepting drug trafficking.

The NTS-Mekong Watch outlined the project plan for 2025, organizing activities to strengthen people-to-people relationships in the targeted areas of the project in 44 border districts across 17 provinces with permanent border crossings. This includes promoting community participation for reporting and monitoring NTS through the NTS-MWCC in each district and online through www.NTS-mekong.com, as well as online training to enhance capabilities and understanding of new security challenges.

Field visits were conducted to study border area issues and listen to lectures at various locations, including border checkpoints, border trade checkpoints, and customs houses along the border. The natural border path along the Mekong River was also examined as a channel for drug trafficking and illicit trade.

Through these field visits, the NTS- Mekong Watch project team aims  to foster strong collaboration between government officials and local communities in border areas, enabling residents to stay informed about NTS. This empowerment will enable them to become leaders of change, inspiring and encouraging local residents to stand up and fight against new security threats with their communities.

Furthermore, the establishment of the best practice area for “Building Strong Cross-Border Communities” aims to unite people from twin cities along the Thailand-Laos and Thailand-Cambodia border areas. Here, they learn and apply laws together, use ethics/morals to make decisions on community issues, and enforce laws strictly and impartially to build mutual trust in the areas. This aims to make parallel areas one entity, mutually supportive and protective, providing sustainable protection against non-traditional security challenges by protecting our communities, securing borders, and safeguarding nations.