Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
My journey to the Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University started on a rather low note after losing my luggage to unscrupulous criminals in the capital city of Nairobi on the night of my travel. This didn’t provoke my emotions to halt my long awaited travel to Bangkok. It was only one hour away and a miss could have cost me much, maybe even the opportunity for the fellowship. Notwithstanding the humiliations, I had to catch up with my flight. However, I will put aside this thrilling epic for another day.
The first three weeks of intense classroom reading and presentations went silently; earnestly welcoming the first field study to North Thailand. For the last three weeks, every morning on my walk to the new Rotary Peace Center building and every evening at 4.00 pm back to my quiet CU I House room on the 20th floor couldn’t have given me ample time to full conceptualize how practical experiences can transform the lives of people. The familiarity on the first day of our excursion to Northern Thailand with the first stop at the Golden Triangle, a Thai perimeter with Laos and Myanmar, was highly esteemed by a veneering sight as the river meanders down. It was a twinkling of pleasure, knowledge, and more significantly, a profound reflection of the meanderings of the Nile River in Africa.
The eye catching view climaxed in my journey through the Hall of Opium that chronologically epitomizes the journey to the eradication of the opium trade and addiction in Thailand and its environs. This gave me an impression that nothing is impossible and can surely be done in Kenya to put an end to the recurrence of political violence and election conflicts that the country has experienced each electioneering period. Indeed as my fellow Rotary Peace fellow from Nigeria, Templer Olaiya, puts it: “The world is just like a book and those who do not travel only read a page.”
The attractive Mae Fah Luang garden that personify the harmonious coexistence of flora and fauna provided serenity to relax and ruminate on the conflict analysis models I had learned in classroom and how they might be applied to the Doi Tung development model.
As I ambled through the Hall of Inspiration, which archives the Princess Mother’s iconic activities, I kept recalling the determination that the 2004 Nobel Peace Laureate Martha Muta Wangari held. Her philosophy and curiosity that was often associated to a song bird’s determination to put off a burning forest fire with drop by drop of water fetched from the nearby river that saved Karura forest, now the main water catchment for Nairobi city and its environs.
However, the question that pestered me was: In what way could Kenya replicate the developments of the Doi Tung Development Model by Mae Fah Foundation in the hills of Chiang Rai in the mountainous and hilly expanses that characterize Vihiga, the Greater Rift Valley and Muranga Counties?
From history, since independence on 12 December 1963 and the eventual promulgation of the first ever progressive Kenyan constitution in early August 2010 that gave citizens all sovereign powers, there have been thousands of policies and regulations that have been lacking goodwill in enforcement. The various beliefs that have perplexed its implementation occasioning slackness in development have deepened poverty leading to over-reliance on handouts by the ever growing population. Nonetheless, the sovereignty bestowed upon the citizens has been mutilated to allow the few to benefit from its gains thus far.
However, it is worth noting that I am not amassing all the blissful attributes to Thailand as though perfect and flawless and better than Kenya. Thailand has its shortfalls too. Read the recent news and you will see. Moreover, despite the feats around the rehabilitation of the Doi Tung Mountain, the conservation of the Mekong River is horrendous beside policies and establishment of inter-country commissions to oversee its exploitation. This has prompted communities living along the river at Chiang Kong to form the Chiang Kong Conservation Group to save the river. The group has been working on conserving the river for future generations whilst preserving the cultures of the communities living along it. Their research and exploration on the types of fish and the aquatic life in the Mekong River to my utter surprise have been able to establish over 500 species of fish in entire Mekong. Unfortunately now only 80 of them are to be found on the Thai stretch of the river.
Although the conservation group welcomes sustainable development, it is apprehensive over the developments projected along the river, especially power production in China, Myanmar, and Laos, as well as the intervention by the Chinese government in setting up three development projects in the border area along the river. In Chiang Kong for instance, it is proposed to be a logistics city which the communities fear might affect their cultural way of life as well the aquatic life in the river. Like Kenya, Thailand, Laos and Myanmar governments are lax in their enforcement of strict measures laid out in treaties and regulations and it is jeopardizing the Mekong River. As I look at the many environmental strategies and policies in Kenya on environmental management visa vie the degradation of lands in Kaptembwo and Subukia quarry fields, I wonder: When shall we move from policy to practice?
Just recently, the Nakuru County Government planned to develop an elegant tourist hotel on Thompson falls in Nyahuru, which has elicited reaction from communities around the tourist attraction augmented by many of the encroachment of human activities on nature. There seems to be a huge connection between countries in terms of strategies for natural resource management and exploitation for sustainable development with additional similarities in failure to practically implement the voluminous legislations lying in the governments’ printers.
You may gain temporary appeasement by a policy of concession to violence, but you do not gain lasting peace that way (Anthony Eden)
Moses Chavene, Kenya
Rotary Peace Fellow
June 2015 Session