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What Sufficiency Economy Do?

          Deep inside ASEAN community lives numerous noble wealth and sufficiency practitioners – and the researcher studies them for the first time. The impressive sufficiency ability of ASEAN people is due to a number of innovations, local cultures and Buddhist philosophy. Finding sufficiency reproduction and values hidden in different remote communities proves a challenge.

          The past decade has seen frequent wars, economic crises, extreme weather disasters and the great energy challenge around the world. Many people made the transition to modern life for they believed they would be more secured. The loss of their rural roots and sufficiency reproduction abilities bring the widespread poverty. It currently becomes a generational problems. The world context has prompted debate about the role of ASEAN to revive its community.

          The functioning of ASEAN communities remains unknown. The current state of knowledge points out that Buddhism dominates ASEAN society’s culture and behavior, so deep-rooted. But little did people know ASEAN community has always had its distinctive style i.e., diversity, strong, spirited and self-sufficient.

          At individual level, ASEAN’s fringes have long been inhabited by the most remote community of different ethnic minorities: Vietnamese migrants in Cambodia, Tribesmen in Lao PDR, Muslim villagers in Myanmar, and Khmer people in Vietnam and rural poor in Thailand and they still follow a ‘less is more’ approach. At country level, rice growing societies now turn to become a fastest-growing trading and industrialized economy with the rise of a new affluent middle-class; sufficiency economic sector is a powerful export engine.

          Among many differences, the power of sharing proves that people’s similarities are far stronger than the qualities that divide them.      In order to maintain the unity of ASEAN community and widening the local development pathways, the research proposes the idea of a philosophical sufficiency economy. With sufficiency economy, anyone can make a positive impact or even change the world. A collection of moralizing narratives of different case studies touch on the beauty of daily life, morality and ecological assets with practical and simple innovations would empower the sufficiency practitioner in people.

          Taking the ASEAN view but with a focus on Thailand and CLMV countries (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam), the research addresses how ASEAN communities are harnessing the creative sufficiency economy for development. The adoption of Buddhist philosophy, traditional social system and appropriate technologies that are more affordable while considering the roles of ASEAN civil society, especially Buddhist leaders, as a creative sufficiency sector to drive the innovations will help position ASEAN as an emerging economy in the world.

          The role of creative sufficiency economy for ASEAN integration is timely. Sufficiency economy will intensify our role as global citizens. And one can make a difference.

Research Rationale

          The establishment of ASEAN Socio-cultural Community (ASCC) at the end of 2015 has brought into sharp focus the issue of building community. The prominence of people-centered community building has served to promote 8 goals including human development, social welfare and protection, social justice and rights, environmental sustainability, building of an ASEAN identity and narrowing the development gap.

          ASEAN integration affected the lives of over 240 million people. They are trying to adapt to an era of ASEAN integration during 2014 – 2015. Most of ASEAN countries are still at a relatively early stage of development, have large knowledge gap, live in poverty and most challenging environments with little knowledge of other countries. The past decades have seen several significant waves of immigration from neighboring countries to Thailand. Many people have managed to sustain their unique sufficiency values and practices for their survival. Therefore, sufficiency economy is ubiquitous and the role of sufficiency economy philosophy is widely recognized as a cross cutting concept.

          Sufficiency economy must be recognized as the vital development enabler in ASCC movement framework. In intensive, long-term studies of ASEAN sufficiency economy would produce livable knowledge, i.e., to be more practical and has spiritual power. A broad spectrum of case studies – homegrown vegetable for drought preparedness of Lao PDR, to village hydro power generation for energy security of Myanmar, meditation and alternative healthcare in Cambodia, and fish feeding toilet for environmental conservation in Vietnam to name a few – inspire people to live in moderation.

          While Buddhism emphasizing on contentment as the greatest wealth, sufficiency economy highlights the importance of empower people to take their place in local and ASEAN economy in order to find freedom from economic sufferings and improve the quality of our own lives and others. Access to sufficiency economy could be the universal catalyst that lifts ASEAN Least Developed and Developing countries out of poverty and puts access to education, health care and basic social services within reach of all. Therefore, sufficiency economy integration on a collective scale will revolutionalize human relationship and spur the development of ASEAN communities.

          The first objective of the research aims to look at the theorization and practice of self-sufficiency of five fast-growing countries of ASEAN including Thailand and CLMV countries (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam). It is a new genre of work, reflecting wider movements of sufficiency economy philosophy that was once bestowed to the Thai people by His Majesty King Bhumipol Adulyadej Rama IX, the present monarch of Thailand and has become an inspiring and powerful model to ASEAN countries.

          It is the first time sufficiency economy philosophy study takes a regional approach because continued exploration of sufficiency economy philosophy, Buddha dharma as well as sufficiency practices has hence the potential to help increase social welfare and accelerate ASEANnationalization. The study explores conditions related to cultural and social innovation dimensions, i.e., beliefs, local wisdoms, folkways and resource sharing basis, and offers a radical interpretation of Buddhist philosophy necessitated for the development of Brahmavihara Dharma and Sangahavatthu Dharma Society. An ideal society promotes inclusive and sustainable growth, by widening learning opportunities to sharing, caring and connection.

          The practice of economy sufficiency philosophy is being evaluated in various domain of society including community economy, environmental wealth, social enterprise and development policy. Greater the building of a modern, integrated ASEAN sufficiency economy could end up producing large amounts of experiential knowledge, case studies, scholars and innovations to ASEAN.

          The second objective is to develop Buddhist ASEAN Study curriculum for the International Buddhist Studies College of Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University. It is assumed that International Buddhist Studies College and ASEAN Study Center Buddhist ASEAN of Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University has a transformational potential in addressing sufficiency economy through their advocacy networks. The challenge lies in the Buddhist ASEAN Study curriculum design to connect people into ASEAN integration era. With an aim to be a constitutive part of ASEAN community development, the curriculum must prepare a myriad of learners and stakeholders for the coming “World of Practice” driven by innovations and changes in years ahead.

          Equipped with research-based sufficiency knowledge, the learners will be gradually developed to be the practical philosophers and ready for ASEAN exposure as well as cross-country investigation for new practices. A skilled practical philosophers, in particular Buddhist monks, could bring sufficiency philosophy and practices into their daily lives and drive social agenda to meet ASCC goals. The curriculum would be an alternative to intensify the knowledge and contextual relevance that encourages Sangha (monastic) education system improvement.

          The research transforms the role of Buddhist monks to extend the boundaries of moral universe to sufficiency economy philosophy. While promoting an open and more inclusive knowledge society through universal primary education and ensuring an access to education of ethnic minorities and vulnerable children, the Buddhist monks also foster values, attitudes and behaviors of the people to practice the right livelihood (Samma-Ajiva). Some Buddhist monks could even drive community development, socioeconomic policy and social transformation in turbulent times.

          The research, therefore, requires a heroic data collection effort. The sufficiency economy education resources will provide an opening to ASEAN Buddhist culture and deepen an understanding of an inclusive sufficiency society. New formats for information inquiry are well-developed ranging from field survey, focus group and in-depth interview to knowledge management. But the dominant mode of data collection claimed to be heroic are the websitized debate and philosophical discourse of experience in order to collaboratively construct articulations of shared understandings for grounded theory. In the process, the Buddhist monks could assemble academia, community leaders and local scholars nearly 500 people into the research work.

          The Buddhist ASEAN Study curriculum is subsequently envisioned as interactively cooperative; a new platform for building capacity to improve the quality of learning (Learning to know), enhancing local competencies in sufficiency living and the universality of the knowledge (Learning to do), encouraging ASEAN societies united in their diversities (Learning to live together) and learning to perfect the moral being of human through Dharma (Learning to be).

          The research also reveal a humanistic vision of education which is similar to what Norrag and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) (2015) proposed in the World Education Forum the consideration of education and knowledge as global common goods. Most encouragingly, the curriculum will prepare ASEAN communities and stakeholders to meet every challenges of ASEAN and ASIA integration in coming years.

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