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SE Asia rising – Increase in activism

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Social activism is on the move in Southeast Asia, the Los Angeles Times reported Nov. 26.

Thousands of grass-roots groups have emerged and are shaping the way countries in the region address issues ranging from human rights and the environment to child labor, the Times said.

These liberal, issue-oriented nonprofits, known as nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs, are taking root in a region in which volunteerism has never played a big role – where Confucian values teach families to care for themselves and leave the world to look out for itself.

No longer a rag-tag collection of charities, local NGOs operate in the shadow of well-known, well-heeled international groups such as Save the Children, Doctors Without Borders and World Vision and are giving a voice to the poor, hope to refugees and a rallying cause to social activities, the Times said.

In Thailand, for example, a coalition of NGOs known as the Assembly of the Poor has demonstrated daily for months in Bangkok and other cities over a host of environmental and economic issues.

And in the Philippines, an NGO known as ReachOut has taken on the powerful Roman Catholic Church to promote the use of condoms.

In the face of a smaller military role in politics and rising public demand for reform, governments are listening. And NGOs are gaining clout, partly because they address issues important to Western donors with billions to contribute.

For full story, go to San Francisco Chronicle.

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