Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
As a child, I remember watching the musical “The King & I.”
I was fascinated by the story between the King of Siam, King Mongkut the Great (Rama IV), and the British Governess for the royal family, Anna Leonowens. The Hollywood portrayal of the fictionalized relationship between the King and Anna is marked by conflict as well as by a love to which neither can admit.
In order to clarify the historical record after the musical was produced, the well-known Thai intellectuals Seni and his brother Kukrit Pramoj wrote “The King of Siam Speaks.” Also known as “The father of science and technology,” King Mongkut the Great modernized Siam.
As a child, I could never imagine that one day I would visit the “Kingdom of Siam” as a Rotary Peace Fellow. Today, I wonder: if I did have an opportunity to meet with King Mongkut the Great, what would be the conversation between us?
I would call this conversation “The King & I: My Version of the Story.”
I would add that I am an economist and completed my Ph.D. in Economics in England, the same country from which his Governess Anna Leonowens came.
I would tell King how much I would love to have had the privilege of teaching his children that Anna Leonowens had.
King Mongkut & Prince Chulalongkorn
I would inform King Mongkut (Rama IV) that his oldest son, Chulalongkorn (Rama V) managed, by extending friendship and by travelling to the Western countries, including Great Britain, France, Russia and America, to prevent Thailand from being colonized. Because of him, Thailand remains as the only country in Southeast Asia never to have been colonized.
I would also inform him that Chulalongkorn University was envisioned by his oldest son, King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). And indeed, it was established in 1917 by King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) who named it after his father King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) who had laid the foundations for modern education in Thailand. It was reported that Rama V stated “Education in this country is the first priority which I am determined to develop.” This year, 2017, the university named for Rama V celebrated its centennial with over 38,000 student enrolled and more than thirty-seven academic departments and research institutes. And, I would tell King Mongkut, I am grateful to his son and his grandson, Rama V and Rama VI, for their vision and establishing this magnificent university in Bangkok.
I would inform Rama IV about the Rotary International and the Rotary Foundation, and the partnership between them which has created the Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University.
I would talk to him about Rotary District 5840, District Governor Lou Miller (PDG) and Foundation Chair Joe Ramirez to whom I am forever grateful for nominating me for this prestigious award.
I would inform Rama IV that along with other Rotary Peace Fellows across the globe, I will study Peace and Conflict Management for three months.
I would tell Rama IV that as an Economics professor, I am in a unique position to reach a diverse group of domestic and international students and I use this privileged position to facilitate positive changes in young minds and thereby plant seeds of peace.
And, I constantly question myself about what new peace initiative can I start in my own classes. How can I challenge these young minds to become active peace promoters?
The King & I
I would inform Rama IV that the United Nation’s “Literacy for Peace” (2011) report claims that education can be a powerful force for peace, and that what people are taught, how they are taught, and how education systems are organized can make countries more or less prone to violence.
I would tell Rama IV that I am very interested in researching the underlying relationship between economics and improved peacefulness. And that I am particularly interested in the determinants of improved peacefulness and the proper measurement of peace, benefits of peace, and the cost of war. I would add that evidence indicates that the relationship between economic prosperity and peace constitutes a salutary circle. Indeed, peace is an indispensable prerequisite for economic development and economic stability among nations. And, there is an immediate upsurge in economic activity associated with the restoration of peace and basic security.
I would talk to him about the world’s problems associated with poverty, inequality, conflict, pollution, immigration and other socioeconomic and political problems. I would tell Rama IV about refugee crises in Europe and all around the world. I would tell him that I am particularly interested in studying the impact of refugees’ economic literacy on their overall long-term economic contribution to their host countries.
At the end of our conversation, I would tell King Mongkut (Rama IV) that he can take great pride in the fact that past, present and future Rotary Peace Fellows trained at Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University are missioned to promote peace, tolerance and goodwill all around the world.
Dear King Mongkut the Great (Rama IV), May You Rest in Peace!
รัก King Mongkut, คุณอาจพักผ่อนในความสงบ
NINA (Dr. Nürşen Albayrak Zanca) – Rotary District 5840 – USA
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 23