A delegation from the Asian Paralympic Committee (APC) has visited Thailand, Cambodia and Laos on a tour to learn more about the development of para-sport in these countries and the challenges that the National Paralympic Committees there face.
The first stop on the tour was in Thailand. Here APC President Majid Rashed, who was accompanied by APC CEO Tarek Souei, first met with the President of the ASEAN Para Sports Federation (APSF), Major General Osoth Bhavilai to discuss how the two organisations can work more closely together and how the APC can support the APSF in their delivery of the ASEAN Para Games. Following this, the APC delegation met with the President of NPC Thailand, Mr Chutinant Bhirobhakdi. In the meeting Rashed payed tribute to the work that the NPC has done to increase its performances at the Paralympic Games—from winning one medal in 2000 to 18 in 2016.
Commenting on the visit to Thailand, Rashed said: ”There has been impressive growth and development in para-sport within Thailand that has led to medal success. This in turn inspires the next generation of para-athletes to get involved. I congratulate NPC Thailand on their efforts and encourage them to support the developing NPCs in the region and share the secrets of their success.”
The delegation then visited Cambodia. Here they met with the Secretary General of the NPC Mr. Yi Veasna and visited their headquarters where approximately 60 athletes are permanently accommodated. Here the athletes train in Para-Archery, Goalball, Para-Volleyball, Boccia, Table Tennis and Shooting-Para-Sport. The Chair of the NPC is also the Prime Minister of Cambodia, Hun Sen, who himself has a partial visual impairment. The NPC is supported by various international organisations, including the Wheelchair Rugby International Federation and the NPC of the Republic of Korea.
Rashed commented; “It is clear that the work of NPC Cambodia is being supported at the highest level of government which is very important. The support it receives from other international organisations is also invaluable. I’d encourage all involved to co-operate closely to support athletes with impairment so that wider perceptions of people with impairment can be challenged leading to a more inclusive society and a better life for all people with an impairment in Cambodia.”
The final country on the tour was Laos. Here they first met with the Secretary General of NPC Laos, Mr. Sithat Chanthaboury and various members from the Ministry of Education and Sports. They received reports on the Para-Sport movement in Laos and inclusive education. They then went on to meet with the Director of the Centre for Medical Rehabilitation and Vice President of NPC Laos, Dr. Thongphet Sitthivanh who gave them a brief history of the Centre and the learnings made through treating people who had become impaired through bombings.
They also visited the offices of ADDP (Asian Development with the Disabled Persons), a Japanese NGO and met with Mme Tomiko Maejima, ADDP President. Here they discussed the current challenges for the para-sport movement from the viewpoint of both the NPC and ADDP. They then visited the COPE centre in Ventiane to learn about their work supplying an average of 1000 prosthesis a year to people living with impairment in Laos, including many injured from unexploded ordnance left after from the Vietnam war.
The delegation then met with the President of NPC Laos, Mr. Boualan Siripanya and key stakeholders to discuss the findings from the trip. The visit concluded with a dinner hosted by Mrs. Sengdeuane Lachanthaboune, the Minister of Education and Sports who is also the Chair of the National Paralympic Committee and National Olympic Committee in Laos.
Reflecting on the visit to Laos, Rashed said; “This visit to Laos has been fascinating. We have learnt so much about the approach here to using sport as a tool for rehabilitation and inclusion and we are very impressed with all the efforts that we have seen today.”
He continued: ”Overall this trip has shown that whilst there is much to do and many challenges here to support people with an impairment in this Asian region, there is also a strong commitment to making this happen. We leave with a deeper understanding of the para-sport landscape in this part of Asia and we hope to be able to support all our members here to make the most of the upcoming opportunities—from the Asian Para Games in Jakarta later this year, through to Tokyo 2020 and beyond. I believe that if we all work together, we can make Asia one of the leading Paralympic regions and help create a better world for all people with an impairment in our region.”