Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
It’s the beginning of my journey from Nepal to Bangkok. I was warmly welcomed by my Rotary Host Counselor, Rotarians and Staff of the Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University. I am very much thankful for their great hospitality. While writing my blog, I wanted to reflect on the current situation taking place in Bangkok, Thailand.
First, I would like to highlight some my glimpses of Bangkok! To be in Bangkok and a Rotary Peace Fellow is really interesting, challenging and an encouraging moment for me. I am very proud to be a member of the Rotary Peace Fellowship, of which includes a total of 20 Peace Fellows, including me, from 15 plus different countries. We all have the opportunity to learn a lot about peace and conflict management from real life experiences—both from one another and given the current dynamics in Thailand—rather than only from textbooks. As we know, there are always two sides to a story, and for us it is an important opportunity to see how conflict is peacefully resolved and managed in Thailand.
We pass by the demonstrations frequently as we travel in the city, and we even have the opportunity to closely explore them. It’s a great thing that all of the demonstrators are peacefully engaged. And, from what we can see, they are patient and cooperative with one another. The Thai demonstrators on the street at the different protest sites that can be found around the city say they are peacefully engaged, would like to see the current government step down due to concerns of corruption, and would like to contribute to important reforms in country. The demonstrators say they would like to reform the government before elections on a range of key issues, like: political parties, election rules and laws, education, provincial civil service and parliament structure, security sector reform, among others.
I recently learned and was very impressed to find that approximately 2 million people were on the streets in Bangkok to peacefully demonstrate together on the 13th January 2014. There were no violent outbreaks, they did not cause harm to one another, with only a whistle in their hand and a heart to peacefully share their views. The demonstrations have been very impressive because they have been so peaceful. I salute all Thai people for their determination and sharing with the world that demonstrations can also be done with love, peace and cooperation regardless of your views. I think it’s a great democracy lesson for the world! And, even though the Government of Thailand declared a State of Emergency on 23 January, everything is running smoothly as usual. This appears to not impact citizens and tourists normal lives! From my experience, this is an amazing State of Emergency due to its peacefulness.
While we experiencing and learning from the peaceful demonstrations and the broader context in Bangkok, we are enjoying the opportunity to welcome, learn from and share with various professors from around the world as well as one another. We have visited various parts of Bangkok of which have included main and historical city sites. In addition, we have been participating in multiple events like cultural exhibitions, concerts, Rotary Clue events and press conferences (e.g. regarding the present political situation in Bangkok organized by Foreign Correspondent Club of Thailand). We have many weeks and I look forward to learning and continuing to explore Bangkok. We all really love to do that!
In conclusion, I would like to reflect on a message that the Past Rotary International President Bhichai Rattakul shared with us during a Rotary Club orientation when we first arrived: “Peace is a not just a piece of a paper. It has to come from the heart. And, as we are all citizens of the world, we must try to make things easier and live in peace and harmony. Peace is the current and future of our world…of our generation our children. It’s more than a humanitarian service.” With this, I would like to wish the people of Thailand the very best of luck in peacefully and collaboratively reforming their country. As I remember the late Mother Teresa sharing: “The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service and the fruit of service is peace”.
Rachana Lama, Nepal
Rotary Peace Fellow
January 2014 Session