Wednesday, August 25, 2010

After Upheaval, Not All Is Well With Thai Youth


Three months ago, images of protesters battling the military in the streets of Bangkok seized the world’s attention. Now, by some measures, Thailand is bouncing back: the country’s economy is projected to grow as fast as 7.5 percent this year, and the government is pushing ahead with a program of “reconciliation” with its opponents.

But even as Thailand pulls itself back together, there are concerns that deep-seated problems among its young people represent a quieter, long-term threat to the country’s future.

Declining education standards — as well as reports of growing violence and drug and alcohol use among the young, which some analysts see as related issues — are contributing to fears that Thailand’s dream of joining the ranks of the world’s most developed countries may be getting more and more elusive.

“Our G.D.P. is going up, but our society is sick,” said Sombat Rittidej, the head of the northeastern division of Child Watch, a program that analyzes trends among young people across Thailand. “All the problems, all the vices are correlated,” he said. “When kids drink and smoke it relates to cutting class, dropping out of school, violence, fighting and premarital sex.”

Analysts point to a variety of troubling trends. The Thai news media reported in July that the country had the world’s highest number of people addicted to methamphetamines, an illegal stimulant that is especially popular with young people. Experts said that this claim, made by a government official, was impossible to verify but that there was no denying the scale of the Thai drug problem. Methamphetamines have become so prevalent in Thailand that researchers from Yale University are studying whether genetic factors have contributed to the country’s high addiction rates.

To read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/25/world/asia/25iht-thai.html?_r=1&ref=asia

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