Meet Anukul Peedkaew, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, whose background inspires him to become a human rights champion

09 October 2023

Anukul Peedkaew, the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, was born into poverty and raised as a temple boy to secure his basic needs and education. In his university years, he juggled roles as a tricycle taxi rider and a security guard during his spare hours to supplement his income.


His own life experiences motivated him to join public service and work towards improving Thai society. He aims to provide opportunities for the less fortunate, so they can succeed, just like he did.


“I was born in Songkhla. My family was extremely poor, so I relied on the food offered in monks’ bowls. During my time at Mahavajiravudh School, I worked as a tricycle taxi rider to earn money. After completing high school, I enrolled at Ramkhamhaeng University. To support myself during my university years, I worked as a security guard at industrial plants and housing estates on the outskirts of Bangkok,” Mr. Anukul says. “I always wanted to pursue a career in public service. So after I graduated, I applied and got a job at the Department of Public Welfare.”


During his career, Mr. Anukul has worked in various social settings, offering support to ethnic communities, marginalized individuals in Chiang Mai, children who faced abuse, the elderly in Chon Buri, impoverished communities in Amnat Charoen, and those dealing with overcrowding in Samut Prakan.


According to him, the fragility of Thai society today stems largely from the weakening of its basic building blocks: families. Many families are struggling to fulfill their intended roles due to a lack of family time, brought about by social and economic challenges and rising inequality.


“In the past, social issues weren’t as pressing as they are today. The rapid advancement of technology has contributed to increased anxiety and social comparison. Many young people have left their hometowns in search of better job opportunities, leaving behind children, the elderly, and vulnerable individuals. This has intensified competition for resources,” Mr. Anukul explains. “Moreover, events in distant parts of the world can now directly impact our lives. For example, people in Thailand’s Yasothon province may face soaring petrol prices due to conflicts such as the Ukraine-Russia war. Global pandemics, disasters, and climate change have widened the development gap and reduced opportunities for the underprivileged.”


Championing Human Rights and Dignity

The Ministry of Social Development and Human Security was established in 2002 in response to the Reorganization of Ministries, Sub-Ministries, and Departments Act B.E. 2545 (2002). Via the reorganization, the Public Welfare Department under the Interior Ministry was upgraded to the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security and entrusted with the missions of developing society by ensuring justice and equality, promoting quality of life and security in life, as well as strengthening family and community institutions. These missions resonate with national strategies. To foster an equittable and inclusive society, the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security seeks to empower, protect and promote the development of vulnerable populations.


The Ministry of Social Development and Human Security operates under the support of 24 laws. Some of these significant laws include the Child Protection Act B.E. 2546 (2003), the Child and Youth Development Promotion Act B.E. 2550 (2007) and its revised version in B.E. 2560 (2017), the Teenage Pregnancy Prevention and Solution Act B.E. 2559 (2016), the Child Adoption Act B.E. 2552 (2009), and the Protection of Helpless Persons Act B.E. 2557 (2014).


The Ministry of Social Development and Human Security has set its sights on achieving its vision through four primary areas of focus:


  1. Strengthening Family Institutions: This involves addressing critical issues such as domestic violence and ensuring that all children have equal access to opportunities, irrespective of their backgrounds.
  2. Promoting Equal Opportunities and Protection: This includes a strong emphasis on the rights and well-being of individuals. It encompasses the provision of high-quality welfare services, accessible childcare for low-income families, and government subsidies to support the costs associated with raising newborn children.
  3. Engaging All Sectors in Sustainable Development: Recognizing the increasing complexity of social issues, the ministry believes that the responsibility for developing Thai society extends beyond government agencies. Local administrative bodies, the private sector, and civil society are essential partners in addressing and resolving these challenges.
  4. Enhancing Ministry Efficiency: To better achieve its goals, the ministry seeks to improve its operations through good governance practices and the utilization of digital technology.


Furthermore, the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security has been actively advocating for the rights of individuals in alignment with international agreements, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Declaration on Action for Equality, Development, and Peace. The ministry has also collaborated with esteemed United Nations agencies such as the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and UN Women to promote and advance social development initiatives.


“In our capacity, we have been bridging efforts to foster the development and empowerment of individuals across all age groups. Our primary focus has been on the vulnerable groups, including children, the elderly, people with disabilities, and those in helpless situations. Our aim is to guarantee that all Thai citizens have the opportunity to fully enjoy their rights and uphold their dignity,” the Permanent Secretary states.

Harnessing Digital Technology

Approximately 80% of the individuals receiving support from the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security belong to vulnerable groups. They are also more likely to be impacted by digital technology. On a positive note, digital technology enables access to critical information and government support. Leveraging digital technology, the ministry maintains an up-to-date database, allowing for tailored policy formulation for different segments of the population. Moreover, digital technology enhances the ministry’s efficiency and speed in delivering services.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, the government’s ‘Rao Chana’ scheme made effective use of digital technology to deliver assistance to those affected. Without this digital platform, the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security would have required significantly more time, possibly even months, to distribute the government’s financial aid to those who required it.

However, it’s essential to acknowledge the potential risks associated with digital technology. The vulnerable populations may become targets of online threats. They could fall victim to scams, online gambling platforms, or even human traffickers.

“Digital technology contributes to the promotion and protection of human rights. However, it can also make the vulnerable even more vulnerable. That’s why it’s crucial to design state support that suits each group and reduces disparities. Digital literacy and well-planned policies are key to addressing these issues in the long run,” Mr. Anukul states.

Prioritizing Social Development

After three decades in social work, Mr. Anukul recognizes the necessity for Thailand to shift its focus towards developing sustainable solutions to social issues. In his view, social welfare should evolve into social development. He believes in empowering people with knowledge and skills, which will, in turn, boarden their life prospects.


“In the face of increasingly complex social problems, it’s clear that the government can’t address all these issues on its own due to the limitations of the system, while certain types of social work involve highly sensitive matters. To effectively tackle these challenges, we need to adopt multidisciplinary approaches and place a strong emphasis on forming partnerships with various stakeholders,” Mr. Anukul emphasizes.


The Ministry of Social Development and Human Security has already forged several collaborations with the private sector or civil society in its effort to transition from a social-welfare model to a social-development model. A notable example of such collaboration is Net for Living, which educates ethnic groups in provinces such as Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, and Nan about digital technology so that they can build additional streams of income online.


To enhance people’s quality of life, it is necessary to create livelihoods for them. In the past, ethnic people in Chiang Rai had to travel downhill to try to sell ethinic goods, often with fears that their journey might not be profitable. Through the Net for Living initiative, they have learned how to turn their unique ethnic identity and rich culture into a selling point, adding appeal to their products. Now, they can sell their products from the comfort of their homes, leading to a significant improvement in their quality of life.


Furthermore, Mr. Anukul emphasizes the importance of individuals shifting their focus from excessive individualism to a more collective perspective, urging people to think more about society as a whole.


“I’ve always taught my children about the importance of sharing. I tell them that if they have just one piece of cake, they should share it with their friends. I also assure them that I will get them another piece afterward. My goal is to help my children understand and appreciate the value of sharing,” he shares.


In the face of today’s challenges, Mr. Anukul holds onto hope in the enduring kindness of people. He believes that kindness has always formed a strong foundation for the society and will continue to make it better. When people act with kindness, it not only diminishes inequality but also promotes the dignity and rights of all, paving the way for a better world.