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Nobel Laureate Opens Poverty Reduction Center in Thailand

The Nobel laureate who pioneered the concept of micro-credit, Muhammad Yunus, has opened a research center in Thailand aimed at reducing poverty in Southeast Asia.

The center is the first outside Bangladesh, where Muhammad Yunus established a micro-credit bank offering small loans to the poor.

His innovative work in poverty reduction earned Yunus the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.

The Yunus Center in Thailand will be at the Asian Institute of Technology, just north of Bangkok.

The center will research ways to help rural people to improve their situation through their own agriculture-related businesses.

At the official launch of the center Wednesday in Bangkok, Yunus said the founders hope to encourage young researchers to view themselves, business and technology as tools for poverty reduction.

"And, that's the role of Yunus Center, how to bring business and the young people together, to work together to bring this technology and the creative minds together," he said. "Creative minds of the business, creative minds of the young people, and the dreams of the young people, so, that we can apply as a business, as a social business, so that we have a different kind of world that we imagine."

The Yunus Center also will work to build on poverty reduction programs AIT already has in place.

Peter Haddawy, the vice president of academic affairs at AIT, cited as an example its bachelor's degree in poverty reduction in agriculture management in Laos, called PRAM for short.

Haddawy says the PRAM program provides hands-on training for development in one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia.

"In contrast to the piecemeal, short-term training in mainly technical areas that many development projects provide, the PRAM program provides students with the full spectrum of skills necessary to address the complex dimensions of poverty," Haddawy said.

The Yunus Center also will cooperate with AIT's satellite centers in Vietnam and Indonesia.

The center's first project is to help transform education in Southeast Asia so it is aimed at poverty reduction.