Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
Timor-Leste’s debut on 20 May 2002 as a sovereign member of the international community was the culmination of a long struggle for independence. Four centuries of Portuguese colonization, Japanese occupation during World War II, and 24 years of brutal Indonesian annexation resulted in sustained and systematic devastation. Only 13 years after independence, Timor-Leste remains one of the poorest countries in Asia and has experienced severe civil and political unrest since late 2006.
As a Rotary Peace Fellow in Class 20 at the Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, I am really happy because I could meet Mr. Bhichai Rattakul, a Past Rotary International President and former Foreign Minister of Thailand. I have marked in the day in my history when I had the chance to meet and hear a great and touching speech from such a figure of peace at the age of 90. I was very inspired by his speech.
I really admire how he could stand for 1 and half hours to deliver a speech in Japan and stand for one hour to deliver the speech for Class 20 Rotary Peace Fellows. I was thinking in my heart that I would never tire of listening to Mr. Bhichai Rattakul’s speech, even for two hours, because he is very energetic in delivering his speech even though he is 90 years old. And he said next month he will go again to give a speech in Japan to talk about peace.
With a strong and smooth voice he said: “Peace and harmony contribute to the wonderful world in which we live. You are here to make history with every work, every action, and the history of peace and conflict resolution. During the three months you are here, you will be listening, learning, and receiving from those who are experienced in peace and conflict resolution.”
Mr. Bhichai Rattakul looked at the Class 20 Rotary Peace Fellows with warm face and stated: “I am not trained to be a kind of peacebuilder, but as a diplomat with 58 years of experience as a politician, I have been going through many peace exercises. For example, many years ago we had bad relationship between Malaysia and Thailand because of oil and gas under the sea at the border of the two countries.” I am really surprised to hear about how he worked to find a creative solution to solve this conflict. He also made a brilliant negotiation with one of his friends in Vietnam in order to find a solution for Thai people who were arrested in Vietnam because they had crossed the sea border Vietnam for fishing. Based on the law in Vietnam these fishers should pay 1,000 dollars per person to the Vietnamese government. Mr. Bhichai Rattakul kept negotiating with one of his friends saying that fishers don’t have much money and that their their families at home were waiting for them to bring something for their own family. Ultimately the fishermen did not have to pay anything because of the success of the creative negotiation. It was amazing to hear about the creative methods of conflict resolution and negotiation that Mr. Bhichai Rattakul used to achieve positive solutions and bring peace to his country and people.
He encouraged and advized us by saying, “You have the courage and determination to learn how peace and conflict resolution can be achieved and you are in the right place now in Bangkok, Thailand. Peace is a thing that people have been asking, seeking, searching for every day. Why do we still speak about peace when we see a lot of conflict, confrontation, and eruption all over the world? I think peace is in your heart and I hope that what you learn from here during the three months will be beneficial to your career, your country, your hometown, and your community.”
Finally, I was very touched by Mr. Bhichai Rattakul’s own definition of peace. He stated that, “Peace is we live together, we brothers and sisters, we help each other, sympathize with each other, join with each other in times of need and happiness also. Peace is an important topic to minimize conflict everywhere.”
Vidal Campos Magno, Timor-Leste
Rotary Peace Fellow
January 2016 Session