The last three years IOGT International has been involved with the alcohol situation in Malaysia. It all started with a joint workshop in Kuching, Sarawak in 2008, where IOGT International together with IFNGO co-organized a workshop with delegates mostly from the South- and Southeast Asia regions.
What is important know about the background for any work in Malaysia is, that it is a federal constitutional monarchy in Southeast Asia. It consists of thirteen states and three federal territories with a population of 28,3 million. The population of Malaysia consists of many ethnic groups. Malays make up 50.4 per cent of the population, 23.7 per cent of the population are of Chinese descent, while those of Indian descent comprise 7.1 per cent of the population. The rest consists of Bumiputra, “sons of the soil”, which covers indigenous people of the Malay Archipelago.
During the workshop, I mentioned above, we had a number of meetings with committed members of Pemadam, Malaysia. As Pemadams mission is to prevent substance abuse, there was a clear link to the alcohol situation in the country, but the evidence base was too limited. Could we jointly focus on some areas where evidence was lacking, but the public awareness was hot. Alcohol and traffic and/or Alcohol linked to domestic violence.
With the professional involvement by researchers from the Center for Alcohol Studies in Bangkok, Thailand we organized in May 2010 a workshop for capacity building and training of trainers for Pemadam staff. A number of professors, students and social workers attended. How can you do a survey on Alcohol and domestic violence in a Muslim society? The work is ongoing.
Our latest activity was Saturday, 1 October 2011, when 250-300 delegates from authorities and the civil society attended a workshop on the harm done by Alcohol, the role of the industry and the WHO strategy. The workshop was arranged by the youth and women’s wing of United China Association, UCA i Sibu, Malaysia. A book launch with the translation of three booklets on Alcohol and HIV, Alcohol and Domestic Violence and Alcohol and gender was conducted. Now we can give facts and opinions in Mandarin and Basha Malaysia.
Presenters in the workshop were Dr Thaksaphon Thamarangsi from Center for Alcohol Studies in Bangkok, Dr Helen Lasimbang, Intervention Group against Alcohol Misuse, Kota Kinabalu and Secretary General Yong Yew Wei from Kuala Lumpur, Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall and myself, for IOGT International. Next step will be two or three workshops in Sarawak and Sabah in April 2012, with focus on civil society, and policy on local and regional level.
But the alcohol industry – here represented by carlsberg is really active as well. They are singing other songs and our challenge is to convince lawmakers to implement an Alcohol Policy without the influence from profit interests of the alcohol industry.