Khor Kok Peng, 49, is unusual among activists: He is as likely to
give speeches at global forums as to agitate with the protesters
outside. "He is a rare three-in-one person an activist, scholar
and journalist," says Anwar Fazal, a senior regional adviser to
the UNDP. It is a trait that has earned the Malaysian recognition
on the international stage as director of the Penang-based Third
World Network (TWN).
Martin Khor's dedication to Third World causes has
seen him interact with both agitators and government leaders.
Khor cut his teeth with the Consumers' Association of Penang. One
of CAP's first big campaigns was to help fishermen whose livelihood
was threatened by industrial waste in Penang's Juru River. CAP also
looked into about 5,000 complaints a year. "If we saw a pattern,
we would scrutinize the law," says Khor. "If there was no relevant
law or no enforcement, we'd write to the government department concerned."
In 1984, TWN was set up as a result of an international seminar
hosted by CAP. "We realize we have to work at both the local and
global levels," says Khor, "because so many problems start from
the global level and need a global response." Such an outlook has
seen him navigate through the alphabet soup of international forums:
U.N., ASEAN, IMF, WTO. He was active in raising awareness of Third
World issues at the WTO meeting in Seattle last year.
Anwar sees no contradiction in Khor working with both activists
and government leaders. "You have to engage formal forums through
their format and also link up with the energy in the streets," he
says. Indeed, Khor's two-pronged approach is simply a means to one
objective: the advancement of Third World interests.
Write to Asiaweek at email@example.com