Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
The January 2013 session is underway. Throughout the next three months, our seventeen Rotary Peace Fellows from fifteen countries will contribute to our blog. We look forward to bringing you thoughts from our Fellows during the session.
On Saturday we traveled to The Rotary Centre in Thailand to meet with the host area counselors and Rotary leaders from Thailand including the Past Rotary International President Bhichai Rattakul. Before I arrived in Bangkok, I had zero clue who Bhichai Rattakul was, but to put it succinctly (and hopefully with the credit he deserves), he is likely one of the most respected and well-accomplished statesmen in Thailand (and perhaps Southeast Asia).
His Excellency, Mr. Rattakul is now 87 years old, and is still as witty and as sharp as anyone. This man has managed to be a productive and revered politician in Thailand despite a government rampant with corruption and a time of constant uncertainty (I think they have had 17 different constitutions since the 1930’s). As Deputy Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, he worked to ensure Thailand was at peace with neighboring countries including Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam. I was very fortunate to sit with His Excellency Mr. Rattakul for lunch, and learned of the times he signed peace treaties with Vietnam and Cambodia after the Vietnam War. This was a very volatile time for the area; here is an article from Time Magazine for a brief overview of Khmer Rouge and Cambodia.
Here is a video of Bhichai Rattakul. Take the time to watch the first couple minutes and hear his views on optimism, opportunity and what makes a good leader.
Needless to say, Bhichai Rattakul certainly had an impact on me. Already I can see the benefit of this program for the students that come from all over the world to learn the skills necessary to become peace builders and conflict resolvers. As he pointed out, it is important even if the skills you learn can help stop a small conflict between two friends. This program was first imagined and developed by Bhichai Rattakul. My ambition now is to live up to his expectation.
John Lamming, Canada
Rotary Peace Fellow
January 2013 session