Home > Newsroom

Wofford Student Recognized by International Organization

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

SPARTANBURG, SC – Wofford College senior Allyn Steele (Class of 2005) is among a group of three college students who will receive the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) Student Recognition Award, to be presented in November in Budapest, Hungary.

The other two students are Robin Reineke, a student at Bryn Mawr College, and Hannah El-Silimy, a student at Oberlin College.

Steele, Wofford’s 19th Presidential International Scholar, is among a group that studied at the CIEE Study Center in Khon Kaen, Thailand, during the fall of 2002. While there, the students helped create a forum for government-mandated research on the effects of the Pak Moon Dam on the community economies, fish stocks, community culture and the nation’s energy needs by contacting the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand and organizing a panel on the issue. The students helped prepare summaries of the Ubon University’s research, the village-led research and a summary of events and fact sheet, working directly with the moderator.

The students also produced a detailed “Report on the Events at Ubon Ratchathani Provincial Hall” on Sept. 18, 2002, which described the beatings of villagers protesting the dam project. The report required that the students go to Bangkok, where the villagers were protesting in front of the Government House. They interviewed some who had been beaten, and often slept on the streets and shared meals with the villagers as they conducted their research. They timed the completion of their report with a visit from an Amnesty International researcher for Thailand to Bangkok, and presented the report to her along with village and non-governmental leaders in an attempt to get the Pak Moon issue mentioned in the annual human rights report on Thailand mentioned.

Working with the Amnesty International director for Thailand, the students carried on their work by reviewing the literature on economic, social and cultural rights. Working within this framework, they reviewed the various research efforts done on the Pak Moon dam – the villager-led research, the World Commission on Dams Report of November 2000, and the Ubon University research. The carefully cited document, “Report on the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Violations of the Pak Moon Dam Case, Northeastern Thailand,” has been called the “first attempt to place an issue facing Thailand into an economic, social and cultural rights framework.” Amnesty International now is looking into using economic, social and cultural rights in their work.

On their final day of the program, Steele and his companions, turned their report into a newspaper article that they e-mailed to the English-language “The Nation” newspaper in Bangkok. It was published Dec. 16, 2002, in “The Nation,” and is posted on the Web site of the International Rivers Network.

Finally, the group wrote “30 Days of Madness: A write-up for future CIEE students interested in human rights,” which explained their work and made recommendations for future CIEE students. “This careful and playful document allows the next group of students interested in human rights to learn from this pioneering group,” says CIEE’s David Streckfuss, resident director for CIEE in Khon Kaen, who nominated the group for the award.

The group “exemplified the best of ‘service learning’ by committing themselves, body and soul, to getting the struggle of the Pak Moon villagers registered with the human rights community,” says Streckfuss. “Through their work of documenting a violation of the political and civil human rights of Pak Moon villagers … and through their efforts to place the Pak Moon issue within the framework of economic, social and cultural rights, these three students made a modest but significant contribution to this issue.

“More than that,” he continues, “they made real connections with the Pak Moon villagers and these connections helped them come to identify the struggle of these villagers as their own.”