I recently received a draft program for a conference on “Sufficiency Economy and Global Transformation: Carving Out a Realistic Path Towards Economic Change” to be held at Chulalongkorn University on 20-21 April. I was interested in the number of “co-organizers and partners” who featured on the program. They are:

Schweisfurth Foundation (Germany) and Sathirakoses Nagapradipa Foundation (Thailand) with Social Research Institute, Chulalongkorn University; Bangchak Petroleum PLC; Social Venture Network Asia (Thailand); Suan Nguen Mee Ma Co., Ltd.; Public Policy Development Office (PPDO); Heinrich Boell Foundation.

Who are they? A quick bit of internet research threw up some interesting information. First, the European connection.

The Schweisfurth Foundation:

… was founded in 1985 by the entrepreneur Karl Ludwig Schweisfurth as an ‘ideas business’. It promotes innovative approaches, visions and concrete models relating to the future of agriculture, science, education, and society… The Foundation seeks to work together with people who: continually question their own modes of behaviour in order to learn new, life-enhancing ways of behaviour towards themselves and towards the world they inhabit; accept responsibility for their own welfare and for that of the world they inhabit; respect the limitations imposed on them by their acceptance of the intrinsic value of other life forms and by the necessity to safeguard and sustain the prerequisites for life; respect the mysteries of life.

And the Heinrich Böll Foundation:

… is part of the Green political movement that has developed worldwide as a response to the traditional politics of socialism, liberalism, and conservatism. Our main tenets are ecology and sustainability, democracy and human rights, self-determination and justice.

The Thai network is rather more incestuous. The Sathirakoses Nagapradipa Foundation has its internet base at Sulak Sivaraksa’s site. It is described as a:

network committed to social justice with ecological vision and based on engaged spirituality and Sulak Sivaraksa, Our Founder, Honouring seventy years if living and working for justice, peace, democracy and sustainable livelihoods. [That’s what the site says!]

The Suan Nguen Mee Ma Co., Ltd is also part of the Sulak stable:

Setting up the company named Suan Nguen Mee Ma or Garden of Fruition is a logical step in order to engage in longer term perspectives with local and village communities threatened by loss of livelihood. We aim to share economic interdependence with the underprivileged and to develop a continuous commitment to a lifestyle of self-reliance.

SVN Asia also seems to have links with Sulak, listing the Suan Nguen Mee Ma as one of its contact addresses in Thailand.

I am not sure how Bangchak Petroleum fits in with all this (any ideas?) but they are certainly keen supporters of the royalist sufficiency vision:

With its continuous work developing a good quality of life for Thai society, Bangchak embraces the philosophy of a sufficiency economy, in accordance with the suggestions of His Majesty the King. This philosophy directs our operations; for example, we have acted in conjunction with Mongkol Chaipattana Co., Ltd., in the establishment of Lemon Farm shops, which sell natural agricultural products from rural community organizations, providing health benefits to consumers, as well… Furthermore, Bangchak has assisted in the promotion of guidelines for a sufficiency economy to help communities become self-sufficient and encourage the use of Thai products, in order to save foreign currency. We have encouraged communities to sell their products at shops in our service stations, an additional useful service for Bangchak’s customers.

I am not suggesting anything untoward in this sufficiency network. But I do wonder how useful the sufficiency seminar will be when most of the key participants seem to be singing from much the same song book. University sponsored events should be prompting critical and diverse perspectives. This looks more like a love-in.