Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
After a few days of general orientation and briefings about Chulalongkorn University, life in Bangkok and the current political situation in Thailand, the course started. Although the campus, some institutions and offices were closed for the public and students—due to the political dynamics displayed in mobilizations and protests in the squares of Bangkok—we, the Rotary Peace Fellows commenced our peace and conflict studies program.
Indeed, this is a perfect occasion to experience the changing history of Southeast Asia. And, to live a real conflict as it sprouts up in the form of multitudinous demonstrations occupying the main streets of Bangkok, twenty-four hours per day. Long speeches, whistling, cheers, music, camping, Thai flags and dancing are being used to express frustration with the current government and to propose an alternative way for the future of Thailand. On the other side, the government is requesting a peaceful solution, while asking for dialogue to allow normal life to return to Bangkok, attract foreign investment and reverse the decrease of tourism in the country.
Within a few years, history and political science books will cover the current demonstration waves in Thailand. In the meanwhile, national and international media is largely covering the evolution of the conflict. As we realized when we attended the debate at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT) in Bangkok, national media is highly partidarized. Therefore, finding unbiased information is not easy. Deepened research and analyses on the background, current developments, reform proposals, numbers and figures are needed to have an accurate view of what is happening nowadays in Thailand.
Meanwhile, during the lectures with Professors Michael Fryer and Rita Manchanda, we, the Rotary Peace Fellows, discussed different authors, styles and models of conflict resolution and management. We discussed drivers, connectors, indicators and as well as the gendered approach to conflict transformation. Likewise, concepts and ideas on peace and conflict were shared as well as interesting resources, such as: Global Peace Index, peacebuilding and peacemaking indicators and group exercises to role play the competences necessary for a peace promoter.
Fellows were actively engaged in all activities. Our debates were deeply animated by the frequent and meaningful interventions of co-fellows who demonstrated their sound experience on peace and conflict resolution. We realized of how much tension existed in many countries as participants brought forward cases from all over the world: India, Kenya, United States, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Burma, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, East Timor, Solomon Islands, Malawi, South Africa, Kurdistan, Sudan, Poland, Syria, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Guatemala, Nepal, Colombia, Spain, Brazil, Palestine, Israel, El Salvador, Argentina, Angola, Somalia, Venezuela, Northern Ireland, Mozambique, Mexico and Guinea-Bissau. Furthermore, a range of crosscutting social conflicts were also highlighted: human rights struggles, criminality, water conflicts, gender violence, youth violence, environmental and urban tensions, among others.
As fellows were really concerned about the current situation in the country, a security briefing was included, as well as an interesting update on the violence in Bangkok by Thai Violence Watch.
The week ended with an exciting tour through the main monuments of Bangkok, so we could learn more about the history and culture of the country. And, to observe that, despite the protests, the city continues its peaceful and welcoming life style.
Antonio Palazuelos Prieto, Spain
Rotary Peace Fellow
January 2014 Session