The people I knew organizing the effort used the traditional plan of working on such a project and came to Thailand uninitiated in Thai culture. First, they planned which phases of construction would take place when, starting with the terminal. The Thai contractors balked at the idea, and the foreign logistics team had no idea why. Working culture in Thailand can also be different than the West as what Westerners may see as giving feedback to a boss may be thought of as disrespectful here. This made it difficult for the foreign team to know what was the objection to starting the project, but eventually it was brought to their attention that the project needed to have a spirit house built first, as the land was believed to be ill-omened. (There are now several spirit houses on the property.)
Once the contractors agreed to build the spirit houses, they also wanted to use standard safety procedures for the workers. Normally many Thais wear open shoes everywhere as the climate is hot and they easily slip off to enter homes and shops where people remove shoes before entering. The safety standards required work boots for the contractors and so the company purchased them. Still, the workers did not wear them. Once again, the people overseeing the project needed feedback to find out why things were not going according to plan. Turns out that the workers (most from rural parts of the North) saw the shoes as formal wear, and did not want to dirty them.
As the project progressed, large numbers of workers were not showing up. The project was already well behind schedule and the logistics people in charge were concerned that people were quitting for unexplained reasons. When the workers that disappeared returned, the bosses were angry and the workers were confused. November is harvest season and in many cases the workers thought it was understood that they would return to help their families, as was done every year. Thankfully at this point the foreigners I know understood that they needed to work within the culture.
When the airport was finally completed, it experienced the normal adjustment period hiccups that are to be expected. This was anticipated... What wasn't was that the airport drew two crowds of tourists. There were the people arriving by plane but a large group of Thais cane to the airport as well. In its early days Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) attracted about 100,000 people coming to picnic. After such a long wait for such a huge project, who can blame them?
The purpose of this story is to illustrate some ways that foreigners need to adjust to the ways of Thailand while here. While we have a clear message to deliver, Thai culture will always prevail in Thailand. It's not to be thought of as an obstacle, but part of the principles of our foundation informing our campaigns. What we seek to do is to bring greater understanding of History and we are in a unique place and position to do so. The World continues to be brought together through the Internet and social media and we would like to see that benefit everyone.
Here's a great video by the No Hate Speech Movement about the World and the Internet: