We as citizens of the United States observe politics from afar and the vast majority of us may participate in the political process only to the extent that we go to the polls once a year to vote. We may endeavor to follow the news accounts of our nation's politics as they unfold, and of the consequences those political actions yield, but we have little power to influence our "democratically" elected officials. Perhaps we write an occasional letter to our senator or representative, but we almost inevitably receive a vague and impersonal response explaining why they will vote in our opposition.

Over the decades, our representative democracy has been systematically undermined and has ultimately failed in preserving the well being of the people of this nation. The system that the founding fathers painstakingly devised in order to best serve the interests and the will of the people has been corrupted and the systems of checks and balances on power that they instituted have been stripped away. Most of us accept this reality as being beyond our control and continue to observe, comment, and complain without aspiring to achieving any real change, without any hope of instituting a new system of governance that would instead take directly into account your views, and the views of your neighbors, and would empower you to make real positive change possible in your communities.

This site will attempt to explore in depth the places in the world where people are successfully bringing about that type of change in the face of similar odds, where an alternate form of democracy, which is called participatory or direct democracy, is taking root. Initiative, referendum & recall, community councils, and grassroots organizing are but a few ways in which direct/participatory democracy is achieving great success around the world.

Our system of representative democracy does not admit the voice of the people into congressional halls, the high courts, or the oval office where our rights and our liberties are being sold out from underneath us. Our local leaders and activists in our communities, and even those local elected officials who may have the best of intentions are for the most part powerless to make real positive change happen in our neighborhoods, towns and villages when there is so much corruption from above.

In places like Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Brazil, South Africa, India, and the Phillipines, new experiments in grass roots community based governance are taking place. There is much to be learned from these and other examples of participatory democracy from around the world when we try to examine how this grass-roots based governance could begin to take root here in our own country in order to alter our political system so that it might better serve the American people.

In the hope that one day we can become a nation working together as a united people practicing true democracy as true equals, we open this forum…


Monday, April 7, 2008

Thailand: The Assembly of the Poor (AOP) and Grassroots Democracy

The Assembly of the Poor, or AOP in Thailand is a fine example of a grassroots movement empowering people from the bottom up in the face of resistance from the power structures above. This movement grew out of the Thai people's frustration at being voiceless in the face of crackdowns by the military junta and dam construction projects that threatened their communities. The movement today has grown into a wide coalition of NGO's, community organizations, and the general public, including the poor, farmers, and indigenous groups. Through direct action and grassroots organizing, the AOP provides a voice to the voiceless, and a means to participate in government and decision making processes that affect their communities. -Editor

Assembly of the Poor (AOP) - Thailand

Source: Assembly of the Poor AOP - Thailand

Written on July 27th, 2006 in Civil Society by heidi

Linked with our presentations of Dawan Chantarahassadee - Thailand, and of the Klong Dan Local Conservation Group - Thailand.

The Assembly of the Poor AOP is a grassroots people’s movement consisting of seven social networks including the rural poor, farmers, urban poor, workers, indigenous peoples and NGOs. It is widely supported by community organizations, non-governmental organizations, academics and the general public. It collaborates on regional and international levels with networks on issues such as globalization, human rights, women, indigenous peoples, the environment and the protection of biodiversity.

The Women’s Group of the Assembly of the Poor present in every component of the movement, not only performing supportive roles in logistics arrangements, but also taking an active part in coordination and decision making. (See this page of 1000peacewomen).

Some of their actions:

A series of very constructive meetings took place between Lek (Thai Labour Campaign, PGA Asia support group), Pablo (PGA Asia support group) and members of the Assembly of the Poor. All of the meetings discussed below were organized by Lek, through her long-term association with Assembly of the Poor and the Thai Labour movement. (Read the whole article of Dec. 2004 on lists, and also on;

About the Pak Mun Dam struggle: see all these long article on, and on one and two;

About Thailands grassroot leadership training see one and two;Thailand: Restoring a River and Traditional Ways of Life (Okt. 2004);

UN commends Assembly of Poor struggle;
Land Research Action Network.

Link: Assembly of the Poor AOP - Thailand

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