Between 1988 and 1992, Thanyathon Haruethaithanvorn was a teacher for UNHCR’s refugee camp in Surin province. She was teaching Thai language to Cambodian refugees. As soon as the camp was over, Thanyathon decided to come home and seek financial support from Thailand’s Rights and Liberties Protection Department (RLPD) under the Ministry of Justice to establish a mediation center in 2003.
An extraordinary experience led Thanyathon to go further with her mediation-related projects. She received funds from the Thai government to do research on the rules of communities. Her research subjects were locals in Surin. Thanyathon also trained in mediation programs for beginners, intermediate learners, and advanced learners from King Prachathipok Institute where techniques and processes of mediation were discussed. Thanyathon also works for Friends of Women Foundation where she helps many women who were sexually exploited in terms of rehabilitation. As her reputation precedes her from the RLPD’s mediation center, Thanyathon is also a mediator in Damrongtham Center of Surin province.
Thanyathon has done more than 300-400 mediation cases in Surin Province. Some failed, many were successful. Her cases involve illegal microloan cases, redemption cases, and illegal purchase of land from villagers who unwillingly gave them to investors. Her cases also include inheritance, rehabilitation of victims, and custody cases.
Challenges for a mediator
Many cases failed because parties were absent even though they signed an agreement to mediate. “Mediation can be sensitive for parties. They are worried that if their stories got leaked to the community, it is embarrassing and will make their lives difficult living in their village,” said Thanyathon.
Thanyathon told SEA-ProTi that sometimes parties lose their faith in the mediator because they don’t know who the mediator is. She added respect and faith are very important factors to drive the case to success.
Advantages for being a mediator
“I am proud to mediate and make all mediation cases successful. I had been doing this job for free for many years,” said Thanyathon.
Successful mediation helps solve many problems, not just those indicated in the mediation application form.
“After a successful mediation, we can sit in people’s hearts. Mediation does not cost the public money. Mediators get 1,000-1,200 baht per mediation session, so don’t expect to be rich working as a mediator for Thailand’s Justice Ministry. But the ultimate goal of mediation is for both parties to be able to look into each other eyes after the mediation. That’s supposed to be mediators’ KPI,” said Thanyathon.
Suggestions for new mediators
Respect, credibility and faith in mediators are very important. They are very difficult to build and easy to be destroyed.
“I started by building a network. I have a network all over the country as I also join many courses from Prapokkrao Institute as a guest speaker and trainer. The most important thing is that we support each other. We also support parties and everyone in the same community. If parties don’t talk to each other in amicable ways anymore after the mediation, mediators fail,” said Thanyathon.
Mediation in the Thai context focuses on relationships rather than process. Unlike western mediations that focus on benefit-related solutions, relationship-based solutions or patron-client relationships among the parties after the mediation are the best indicators of determining a successful mediation.
Thanyathon is currently an award winner for Silver Medal Royal Decoration for best female mediator in Thailand. She is applying for the golden one.
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