Friday, June 1, 2007

Thailand’s Birth Control Program: A Model for the Rest of Southeast Asia

Thanks to “Mighty Mechai,” Thailand’s birth/population control program has been a resounding success.

By: Vanessa Uy

Despite of the “American Media’s” perception of 1980’s Bangkok as the world’s largest red-light district. Thailand is generally quite a conservative country, especially in the open discussion of sex education and birth control. But thanks to public health activist Mechai Viravaidya also known as “Mighty Mechai.” He is also dubbed as the “condom king” because of his campaign of freely handing out condoms almost everywhere especially in large social gatherings-except on funerals, which in doing so is a cultural faux pas in Thailand.

As an economist, Mechai Viravaidya was concerned that an unchecked booming birth rate is something that Thailand’s economy just can’t support. His population control program has been considered a resounding success despite of the Thai society’s reluctance to openly discuss birth control and sex education issues. When the AIDS scare of the mid -1980’s came along, the Thai society’s perception of sex education issues change from taboo to a public health issue. At the same time, “Mighty Mechai’s” condom distribution program has an added benefit of curbing the spread of AIDS in Thailand. Since then, Mechai Viravaidya has been credited for raising the conscience of the Thai populace about “human welfare” that an overpopulated country simply just can’t provide. To me, this raises the question why Buddhists-in general-have a more pragmatic view about “human welfare” compared to the Vatican?

Despite of the fame that he earned due to the success of his birth control program, Meccai Viravaidya just wants to be remembered as a self-effacing man. Maybe Mechai Viravaidya should spread his message of birth control here in the Philippines.

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