BMW dealer in Chiang Mai ready for APEC meeting
Photos by Michael Vogt
It is official now: Chiang Mai has its own official BMW
dealership for the North. This was celebrated with a huge party at the new
dealership center V.V.P., located on the Superhighway, Chiangmai-Lampang Rd,
Northern Comets could not resist having a look, touching and talking about
the orange F 650 Cs, the 650cc, 50 horsepower beautiful machine. Who knows,
maybe more than one of them will ride a BMW at the Chiang Mai Bike week
later this year, which will again be mainly sponsored by BMW Motorrad.
Dr. Frank Roesler, president of BMW Group Thailand, along
with a large number of delegates from the BMW Group, flew up specifically
for this event, and presented the official certificate to Thongchai
Jira-alongkorn, MD of V.V.P. Automobile, to bestow this elegant showroom
with the authority to become an exclusive BMW Thailand dealership.
left to right: Erwin Ruser, Motorrad Manager BMW Thailand, Sehapan Chumsai,
Deputy Sales Director BMW Group Thailand, Thongchai Jira-alongkorn, Managing
Director V.V.P. Automobile Chiang Mai, Dr. Frank Roesler, President BMW
Group Thailand, Somkuan, Deputy MD V.V.P. Automobile, David Llewellyn,
Director-After Sales Service, BMW Group Thailand, and Joe Hall, Managing
Director Financial Services.
V.V.P. celebrated this occasion with a very stylish
party, the likes which is normally only found in Bangkok - truly following
the image of BMW, stating clearly ‘You have the style, we have the
Chutima, President of the Chamber of Commerce, presenting a flower basket to
VVP’s General Manager Nopachai Satapanakul.
Substance, style, presence, BMW has it all, and looking
around at the gigantic showroom, more than one of the many gentlemen
suddenly had eyes like a child on Christmas Day, just looking at the dark
convertible or the shiny bikes on display in the showroom.
is part of the BMW Group, and HSH Prince Bhisadej proudly stands next to his
very own ‘Mini Cooper’.
But BMW Cars was by far not all which was celebrated, the
Chiang Mai based shop is from now on also the official BMW Motorrad dealer
for the North. Erwin Ruser, Motorrad manager of BMW Thailand, and a
passionate rider himself, did not get tired telling everybody about the
beautiful F 650 CS and the R 1200 C which were the main showpieces at V.V.P.
- Ruser explained that there is a movement on the way which is called ‘scarving’,
and if people have this passion for bikes they should give it a renewed
thrust with the Scarver. Even if anyone has never ridden a motorbike, it’s
a feeling you shouldn’t miss, and a must-do experience. Agile, powerful
(50 bhp) and individualized in up to 24 different colors, the Scarver offers
an extraordinary two-wheel experience in every situation and for every
BMW 735 Li Limousine speaks for itself. Max. power 272 bhp (200 kW) at
6,200rpm - the world’s most advanced production engine. Take the
breath-taking performance of the all-new BMW power unit. Add to this the
incredible efficiency of the new Valvetronic variable valve lift system and
the versatility and generous power of Double VANOS. Control it with the
serial six-speed automatic transmission system, complete with integrated
steptronic shift-by-wire technology. The result is an unsurpassed driving
The other remarkable showpiece at V.V.P. was a
declaration of independence - the BMW R 1200 C Independent, which stands for
pure freedom: it has been created to set people free to jump in the saddle,
push the start button, leave daily worries behind, and say goodbye to
conformity. Chrome auxiliary headlamps bring even more light into the
darkness and focus the eyes towards the destination.
Prince Bhisadej (right), who kindly presided over the opening ceremony,
almost sat on the orange F 650 CS, but then decided he’d rather go back to
his very own Mini Cooper.
When Dr. Frank Roesler took the microphone, the room
dropped silent and people just listened when he stated, “It is with great
pleasure to open this new dealership. It fills us with pride to see what a
beautiful home BMW has found here in the North. Chiang Mai is another key
territory in Thailand which BMW wishes to have a strong presence. With V.V.P.
Automobile we have formed this partner with a lot of experience in the
automobile business combined with the necessarily local know-how.”
Frank Roesler, President BMW Group Thailand (left) and Erwin Ruser, Manager
BMW Motorbike Thailand posing with the R 1200 C.
He continued, “There can be no better timing for the
grand opening of V.V.P. because the Thai government selected the BMW
flagship model, the 7 Series, to be the official limousine for the leaders
of the forthcoming APEC SME Ministerial Meeting in Chiang Mai.” Dr. Frank
Roesler, the president of BMW Group Thailand, stated that, “At locations
where decisive conferences are taking place, BMW 7 Series frequently
appears. It is a sign that a significant meeting is under way.”
entertainment part of the festive evening was perfectly performed by the
Payap University Music Department.
He also expressed the pride of BMW Manufacturing Thailand
to build BMW flagship models for these crucial international meetings,
“With the locally built BMW 7 Series from our Rayong plant, top
international leaders can experience the dynamism of Thailand from various
aspects including the Thai automobile industry.”
is official now. Dr. Frank Roesler (right) officially handed over the
certificate to Thongchai Jira-alongkorn to make V.V.P. the authorized dealer
of BMW Thailand.
He ended with the words, “Next week we will fill the
streets of Chiang Mai with BMW, after that you will be responsible to do it,
but we all wish you great success in Northern Thailand.”
Bon Voyage Michael and Karen Kemp
Photos by Michael Vogt
There are several phases in one’s life, and the longest
phase for almost everybody consists of one’s professional life.
Dirksen, Hon. Consul to the Fed. Rep. of Germany, his wife Wanphen, Bud
Velat and Daeng, Suchid and Dieter von Boehm-Bezing, plus Michael Kemp on
the very right.
If anybody had told us a few months ago that Michael Kemp
would be retiring today, simply no one would have believed them. But I guess
when the time has come for you to change course in life and steer your ship
for quieter waters, you’d better look ahead to move steadily and start
enjoying the next step of life.
Dumur, GM Amari Rincome Hotel, William Heinecke, Minor Group, Karen Kemp,
Alex Brodard, Director Contacttravel, and Kathy Heinecke.
Life in a hotel is a little bit like show business, much
admired from many but countless times also very tiring, since privacy comes
at the very last.
Velat, Michael Kemp, Daeng from DNK Export Company Hang Dong, and Chef Derek
Watanabe from the Regent Chiang Mai just cannot get enough of the delicious
Karen and Michael Kemp make a good team, sharing the
daily hotel life according to their particular strengths, and together
succeeding in keeping staff happy and pleasing their guests who will always
receive a warm welcome, and many of whom have become regular visitors and
are treated more as family than as regular guests.
left: Karin Picquot, wife of the regional vice president and GM of the
Regent Bangkok, Karen Kemp and Rebecca Lomax, Payap University, indulged
themselves in food and small talk.
Michael Kemp has met and mingled with celebrities,
royalty and dignitaries from around the world. He has organized everything
from extravagant black tie functions to outdoor barbeques. He was a hands-on
contributor at the Regent; he has been the key to the success of the hotel
over the years. As Jim Fitzgibbon, president Asia Pacific of Four Seasons
Hotels and Resorts said in his farewell speech that night, “A hotel is
what a GM makes out of it and Michael made this Regent 4 Seasons in Chiang
Mai with the beautiful spa and cooking school a unique place.” He
possesses vast knowledge, experience and wisdom, and these qualities along
with his down-to-earth caring management style have won him many friends.
GM Michael Kemp flanked by his friends Thanpuying Varaporn Pramoj and H.E.
Rear Admiral M.L. Usni Pramoj, chairman of the board at The Regent Four
Both Karen and Michael have a sincere commitment to the
Regent group of hotels since they share not only their private life in the
hotel, but also share the same background - hotel business - which means
compassion and 150% commitment. It is a fulfilling job but you need breaks
festive, yet relaxed mood was felt all night, and when Karen stated in her
farewell address that during all these years in Chiang Mai, she experienced
the most spoiled way of drinking G & T and most of all she will miss the
‘sanuk’ which became a part of the daily routine, the guests gave her
For Michael and Karen the time has come now to take this
deserved break in life. However, nobody present at the night of their
farewell party could imagine them being away for a long time.
left: Djulie Hopkinson, Anil from Singapore, Marion Vogt, Chiangmai Mail,
Pamela Rowe, wife of incoming GM Regent Chiang Mai, Richard Dixon, and
Rebecca Lomax, Payap University.
It is a difficult task to know what exactly you should
say to someone who is retiring after many years working in a company and
being an integral part of the community. Inevitably, the temptation is to
crack a few jokes or, worse still, to mumble a few words about him and her
being a ‘tough but fair taskmaster’. Believe me, retirement speeches as
well as farewell speeches are not easy to get right. It’s always sad to
leave friends behind. And it’s nice to be told “you’ll be missed!”
That’s the kind of memory that you yourself would like to retire or leave
with ... isn’t it? So it was more wishing them ‘Bon Voyage’ and
knowing Michael and Karen, they will not stay away for long, they will be
back. Let’s therefore spare all this reminiscing, and rather look forward
to the time when they will be back in our midst.
Kemp and M.L. Usni Pramoj, chairman of the board of The Regent Four Seasons
Resort are longtime friends as one can see - and so are Karen and Varaporn.
Karen and Michael, everybody present at the farewell
night at the Regent Chiang Mai Resort and Spa wishes you success, happiness,
joy and pleasure for the time ahead. All our wishes are with you, we will
miss you both tremendously and we are all looking forward to a ‘welcome
back to Chiang Mai party’ soon.
Hopkinson, Major Roy Hudson, who has been living in Chiang Mai since 1960
and has quite some stories to tell, Karen Kemp, and on the very right Neil,
area manager of the Four Seasons Group of Hotels, who came all the way from
Singapore to bid farewell to Michael and Karen.
the staff seems to be all-smiles, they will certainly miss “their” GM
Michael, and they are expecting him to be back soon, at least for holidays.
farewell-hug - ever-so-elegant Suchid von Boehm-Bezing and outgoing GM
(Eagle House) with her daughter, having a chat with Henry Jardine, US
Consulate, and his wife Kathrine.
Cultures battle for Charity
The Great Yogurt Debate took place at the Mango Tree Caf้é
Ever heard about a person throwing 50,000 baht on the
table, saying, “My yogurt is the best,” and challenging anyone to come
up with a better product?
was not only testing but sheer pleasure when the jury started from Yogurt A
to B to C.
If you have followed the last issues of Chiangmai Mail,
you may have noticed an ad inviting companies and private persons to a
yogurt testing, raising money at the same time, and letting any charitable
organization become the beneficiary. The aforementioned person was no other
than Bob Johnson, Chiang Mai’s self-declared pickle-king, whose product
range also includes Bulgarian yogurt.
Johnson (left) hands over 56,000 baht to one of the representatives of the
Yardfon Vocational Rehabilitation Center for the disabled after the Yogurt
Debate at the Mango Tree Caf้.
A number of reputed institutions, such as the Mango Tree
Caf้, Good Morning Chiangmai – Magazine, Chiang Mai Trader News, and
Chiangmai Mail, found this idea as unusual as worthwhile, and quickly
responded by pledging full support for the event.
An independent jury, comprising of Renee Vines
(Foundation of the Education of Rural Children), Annelie Hendrix (Rotary
Club Chiang Mai South and Samsara Foundation), Anthony Purkis (fx-strategics),
Philip Harris (Mango Tree Caf้), and Marion Vogt (Chiangmai Mail), all
more or less fond yogurt lovers and therefore unbiased and neutral, had the
delicious task to examine and taste 3 different products.
arrive, children and representatives from Yardfon together with Celeste
Holland (under the hat) as a direct representative of Director Mayuree
Yoktree, and next to her, all smiles, the biggest sponsor of the day, Bob
Johnson, who is sure that his Bulgarian yogurt cannot lose.
These products were clearly marked with an A, B, and C,
and no visible brand name could be found on the pure white cups. They all
were properly sealed, and fresh spoons were provided for every individual
Some members of the jury could not resist sticking their
noses inside the cups, which resulted in some funny looking expressions on
their faces at times.
testers, children and sponsors after the Great Yogurt Debate pose for a
‘happy group photo’.
After about 20 minutes of most serious discussions and
comparisons, the jury came to the unanimous conclusion that the yogurt
branded with a “C” was the creamiest and smoothest of them all, and had
the best texture.
Celeste Holland, representing Mayuree Yoktree, director
of the Yardfon Vocational Rehabilitation Center, happily announced that
“C” was indeed Bob’s very own product, the Bulgarian yogurt, which had
passed the test, 5 points ahead of the competitors (Jerusalem Falafel and
The jury was also happy to announce that all 3 products
were not only delicious, but also very worthy competitors; however, only one
All in all, an amount of 56,000 baht was raised through
this challenge, and the money was immediately handed-over to the
representatives of the Yardfon Vocational Center for the disabled. With
these funds, 2 new houses will be built, providing accommodation for a
number of students currently living on the grounds of the Foundation.
Bob Johnson, who was cheered and commended by all
participants and witnesses, already plans to raise even more funds in the
near future, but this time possibly through a ‘pickle debate’. He also
plans to challenge large companies or producers which could much easier come
up with substantial funds.
He acknowledges that this is certainly not easy for
relatively small local companies, but if organizations in need can be helped
through this “thinking outside of the box”, any effort and undertaking
will be successful.
A lovely idea, Bob, and one can only wish that there were
more people like you who would just step forward and say, “I want to help
– let’s do it!”
Chiang Mai YMCA promotes Thai - Singapore relationships through youth work camp program
Patcharin Aviphan Director of The YMCA for Northern Development
team consisted of youth campers from Singapore, Thai students and villagers.
They worked together to build a library for Baan Paan School which is
located in Long district, Phrae Province.
As you might already know, the SARS situation was
recently brought under control in Singapore. This allowed students to travel
to Thailand. Twenty students from Singapore, aged 15-17 years old,
participated in a youth work camp program from June 23 to July 3, 2003. The
program was set-up and coordinated by the YMCA of Chiang Mai.The students
came from the Naval Base Secondary School in Singapore. The program
strengthened the relationship between Thai and Singapore youths, for the
Singapore students worked in a rural area and stayed with host families. The
camp taught the students to show love, care and concern for other people and
to help those less fortunate than them. The Singapore youths were not
interested in site seeing or shopping, they were interested in helping,
interested in working.
Thai villagers shared their building expertise with the Singapore youth.
The students’ parents wanted their children to
experience a different lifestyle, a simple lifestyle compared to their fast
paced, highly technological way of life. The mission of the program and the
students was to build a library for the Baan Pann School in Wiang Tha
Sub-district, Long District, Phrae Province. The youth from Singapore
learned a great deal about construction from the villagers. Even though they
did not share the same language, they shared the same mission. They enjoyed
trying to overcome the language barrier, using hand gestures and many
smiles. The students became closer to the villagers and learned a lot about
Thai culture through home stays, and they were able to experience Thai
village lifestyles, first hand. It was an opportunity that will not be
forgotten by the Singapore students, Thai students,
was the first time most of the youths used simple hand tools. It was an
unforgettable experience for all those involved.
Thai villagers or the YMCA staff. After the library was
completed, there was a large celebration Khantoke dinner. Thai students
performed traditional Thai dance and music and the Singapore students
modeled traditional Singaporean fashions, sang songs and played traditional
games. It was a great sharing of cultures enjoyed by all those in
youth from Singapore experienced local culture and northern tradition of
Thailand by home stays with villagers.
Eventually, this great experience will be a lesson
how to love others as well as give kind assistance and contribution to
disadvantaged people that will lead to peaceful thoughts for living together
in harmony. Chiang Mai YMCA has continuously provided these kinds of
activities to strengthen the relationships among neighboring countries in
order to promote peaceful ways of thinking for the new generation. If you
are interested in joining a YMCA work camp or would like to help out, please
contact us via e-mail. Our address is: [email protected]
students and students from Singapore enjoyed building new friendships. They
became great friends during the time they spent together.
Religious leaders of many faiths gather for International Conference on Religion and Globalization
Opening ceremony held at Payap University on Sunday, July 27
The International Conference on Religion and
Globalization at Payap University began last Sunday with hundreds of eager
participants from 32 countries worldwide assembling at the auditorium of the
Food Science Technology building at Mae Khao Campus, PYU.
Boonthong Poocharoen, president of Payap University said, “I sincerely
hope that whatever takes place during this meeting will help us towards a
more peaceful world ... This conference would not have been possible without
the help of our sponsors as well the coordinators, the staff and the
executive steering committee who worked tirelessly during the last couple of
After a Thai blessing dance and a song to pay respect to
HM The King, performed by the PYU Music Department, the masters of ceremony
acknowledged the people from all countries who were eager and excited to be
a part of this historic event.
Oleg Tcherepanin, representing the Russian Orthodox Christian Community
said, “I believe that religion and globalization are a progress which none
of us can stop. A progress that has many positive but also negative effects
on our world. We all believe somehow, that we have another life, that
something comes after we passed away. We need answers and maybe with so many
people from so many countries, we are able to find an answer after this
conference. I can only pray that we gain a lot during this week.”
Imagine people of all ages from Australia, Bangladesh,
Belgium, Bhutan, Cambodia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia,
Iran, Ireland, Japan, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan,
Philippines, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain Sri Lanka, Sudan,
Sweden, Taiwan, UK, USA, Vietnam, as well as from all parts of the host
country Thailand in one big hall, all with their own belief on how
globalization effects the modern world through religion, politics and
Dr. Sint Kimhachandra spoke for the Protestant Christian Community, “In
this world of continuous change, in this time of intercommunication, this
time of violence, HIV-AIDS, drug abuse, ethics and justice abuse and worst
of all in a time were moralists try to dictate our way of living, I thank
you all for the willingness to find some answers for all that, may God bless
you and may this convention benefit to all of us. Just don’t forget, we
are not able to change the problems of the world in a week...”
During the opening addresses the excitement and different
ways of thinking were already perceptible. But all were united in one thing.
They were open to new thoughts, yet strong in their beliefs, and knew that
change is inevitable and should lead the world to a more positive
Lawrence Tienchai Samanchit, representing the Roman Catholic Christian
Community, “In the name of the Catholic Church in Thailand ... May this
conference be successful and may it let us be united with a common concern,
in a world where the media drives consumers to agree on globalization. Let
us live in a world of love and peace without war and terrorism. May God
bless you all.”
The different representatives of the religious
communities were asked to assemble on stage and share their greetings and
hopes with the audience, before the first panel discussions and plenary
Chao Khun Phra Phutthapphotchanavaraporn, representing the Buddhist
Community, told the assembled clerics, “Chiang Mai has always been a
progressive, yet independent city, which shows again today, bringing you
here to share your thoughts of religion and globalization. Chiang Mai is a
Buddhist city but it is open to all cultures and has until today preserved
its distinct Lanna traditions.”
Saisuree Chutikul, chairperson of Payap’s University’s Board of Trustees
said, “Since ancient times Thailand and the rest of South-East Asia have
been a ‘crossroad’ of various religious and cultural traditions. In
ancient times we were profoundly influenced by the civilizations of India
and China as well as the traditions of central Asia and Japan. In more
recent times we have experienced the impact of cultural, social and
religious influences from Europe, North America and Australia. In all these
cases we have taken and blended this with our own native traditions to
develop forms of religion and culture that are distinctively and uniquely
our own. Thus we have long been involved in the process of many
intercultural and inter-religious exchanges that many now label
‘Globalization’.” (For more on Dr. Saisuree Chutikul’s speech,
please see page 30).
Hasun, on behalf of the Muslim Community Chiang Mai said, “I bring you
greetings from one of the smallest communities here in Chiang Mai. 15,700
Muslims live here together as brothers and sisters, even when globalization
sets the world on fire. We hope for peace and a better understanding during
and after the conference.”
Jaspal Rai Ahuja spoke for Hindu and other religious communities when he
said, “I am confident that all of us will benefit from this conference.
Let all of us be one in true harmony. Let the cosmic forces bless all of
of John Butt, director of the Institute for the Study of Religion and
Culture in Chiang Mai. “This conference is not only about globalization,
it also in many respects represents and exhibits globalization. Most of the
major religious traditions of the world as well as most of the important
branches in those trades are represented today. In organizing and preparing
for this conference we’ve also experienced vividly and sometimes painfully
that we live in an age that is becoming increasingly globalized. We’ve
been beset and plagued by the threat of world-wide terror, distant wars in
Afghanistan and Iraq, international concern about SARS, as well as the
presence of another kind of virus that affects computers and is transmitted
by e-mails. ... We have ahead of us a very interesting, stimulating and
challenging week of discussion and the sharing of religious ideas and
Habito, vice president of the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies said,
“Never before has the world been so unified - through Internet, through
media and other modern technologies. And yet, never before has the world
been so fragmented and at war with one another as today. This coming week
will hopefully give us some answers to enable us to again live together in
peace. I am looking forward to engaging in discussions to enable us to heal
Would Jesus, Buddha or Mohammed drive an SUV?
Religious Identity and Globalization
The International Conference on Religion and
Globalization at Payap University was a major event for Chiang Mai. It
brought many world religious leaders as well as researches of Buddhism,
Christianity and spiritualism to the North.
Gabaude, from the Ecole Francaise d’Extreme Orient, shares a special bond
with Dr. Donald Swearer and included humor and love for details in the
introduction of his friend, the keynote speaker Donald Swearer.
The first keynote speaker to deliver a major plenary
session immediately drew attention, just with the topic of his speech. He
was introduced by Louis Gabaude from the Ecole Francaise d’Extreme Orient,
Thailand, who has been a Thai resident for the last 30 years. Louis Gabaude
explained in a very humorous way how many French tricks he needed to
convince Dr. Donald K. Swearer to agree being the first speaker at the
Sulak Sivaraska, a socially engaged Buddhist who respects the work of the
missionaries helping to educate the hill tribe people, but sees
globalization as a danger to world peace.
Dr. Donald Swearer is a graduate of Yale Divinity School
and Princeton University, a professor of Swarthmore College, PA, in the USA
and has served as chair of Swarthmore’s Department of religion. He is a
profile author of books and articles with 2 new books being published in
Dr. Swearer is a very well known personality and the
auditorium seemed to burst with people. Thais as well as foreigners were
drawn to him and the - in Thailand usual - murmurs stopped the second Dr.
Swearer arrived on stage.
Donald K. Swearer, whose principal area of research has been Southeast Asian
Buddhism and who is currently doing a three-year study on “Christian
Identity in Buddhist Thailand”.
Even a summary of his address would fill 5 pages of Chiangmai
Mail, on the fact that he speaks with twice the speed of an average
Here are just some of his ideas on the clarification of
The sardonic subtitle he appended to his remarks that
evening points to the increasingly vigorous and critical response by
representatives of the word’s religions to globalization as a
‘religion’ of market competition and consumption.
was very quiet throughout the 2 hours plenary address by Donald K. Swearer
at the auditorium in the Food Science Building at PYU.
He started his session with, “The term,
‘globalization’ has a distinctively modern resonance. In the arena of
the global economy the word evokes the activities of the International
Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organizations, the global
dominance of multinational corporations and popular brand names the likes of
Nike, Gucci and Channel, Coca Cola, McDonald and CNN. In regard to
globalization and nation states we’re apt to think in terms of
‘super-territoriality’, international and regional organizations and
alliances, the United Nations, the European Union, NATO and ASEAN, the
historic forces of colonial imperialism or post-cold war American hegemonic
power. In regard to culture one has only to stroll through the mega-shopping
centers in Bangkok or Chiang Mai to observe the pervasive influence of
western styles, tastes and mores in this country.
“Dr. Kritsdarat Wattanasuwan’s (Faculty of Commerce
and Accounting, Thammarat University) recent study of young Thai nouveau
riche finds that owning popular western brands is not a simple display of
superficial materialism but represents a search for personal identity and a
way of negotiating relationships. (Karnjaruya Sukrung, ‘Behind the
Brands,’ Bangkok Post, April 29, 2003). Possessing luxury brands has
become a modern talisman, replacing amulets and tattoos as a way of warding
off evil, protecting the owner from uncertainty, and providing peace of
mind. The processes of globalization are not new, but the technological
revolution of the past half century has greatly accelerated their impact on
the lives of people all over the world.
“Globalization, a term first used in 1961, connotes
post-colonial modernization and Westernization and is perceived in some
circles in increasingly critical and negative terms. Enemies of
globalization see the pervasive power of free market capitalism as having a
particularly deleterious impact on local societies, economies, culture and
religion, and are leading to co-modification of values dominated by
Dr. Swearer did not talk about the contemporary forms of
socially engaged Buddhism, Christianity or Islam to globalization. He rather
introduced Thailand’s religious history, and from watching and listening
people in the audience, they took it more than well. He raised the question
if Christianity failed in terms of becoming a state religion and why
Christianity was always seen as a “foreigner’s religion” for
When he finished and told the audience that he, as well
as Louis Gabaude, are open to take and answer questions, it became a fact
that there are indeed many different aspects and understandings of religion,
Christianity, Buddhism and some even called globalization “the virus from
USA which has to be stopped”.
A very strong opponent of globalization turned out to be
Sulak Sivaraska (Santi Pracha Dhamma Institute), the founder of many NGOs
and the International Network of Engaged Buddhists, who respects Christians
but charges that the “Wat” as a center of community life has been
displaced by shopping malls and more attention is given to building and
maintaining upscale gas stations and their convenience stores than temples.
It was a lively discussion and more than once the word
westernization instead of globalization was used.
Excerpts from the welcoming remarks by Dr. Saisuree Chutikul
Chairperson of Payap’s University’s Board of Trustees
The following are excerpts from the very
moving opening remarks presented by Dr. Saisuree Chutikul, chairperson of
Payap’s University’s Board of Trustees, given at the opening ceremony of
the International Conference on Religion and Globalization on Sunday, July
“Venerable leaders and members of the Buddhist Sangha,
Reverend leaders and members of the Christian clergy,
Esteemed leaders and members of the Islamic religion,
Respected leaders and members of the Hindu religion and
other religious communities,
Honorable representatives of various governments,
distinguished participants and honored guests...
I am delighted to welcome all of you to Chiang Mai to the
opening of this very important conference. Since ancient times Thailand and
the rest of South-East Asia has been a ‘crossroad’ of various religious
and cultural traditions. In ancient times we were profoundly influenced by
the civilizations of both India and China as well as the traditions of
central Asia and Japan.
In more recent times we have experienced the impact of
cultural, social and religious influences from Europe, North America and
Australia. In all these cases we have taken and blended it with our own
native traditions to develop forms of religion and culture that are
distinctively and uniquely our own. Thus we have long been involved in the
process of many intercultural and inter-religious exchanges that many now
We have experienced both positive and negative results
from this process. My own work over the past decades has focused mainly on
the contemporary abuse and exploitations of women and children in Thailand,
neighboring countries and throughout the world. This abuse of human rights
and the exploitation of those weak and powerless have been connected in no
small part with the modern movement of globalization. I have no doubt that
during this coming week in your panels, papers and discussions you will be
examining and deliberating on both the positive and the negative dimensions
of the globalization movement and perhaps most importantly you will be
giving attention to how our religious communities should now be responding
I do not need to tell this audience that one conference
is not enough. Interface dialogue must be a continuing endeavor. Religious
communities at all levels must continuously meet and share their convictions
and aspirations in order to increase understanding and mutual respect for
one another. We, at Payap University are honored by your presence and we
pray for your success.”
A new growth industry in Thailand - build more
prisons and hand down longer sentences
Corruption and dishonesty is so ingrained in many
societies that attempts to root it out and replace it with moral ethics and
respect for law and order will demand more than propaganda campaigns and
lip-service from community and national leaders.
Generations of ordinary citizens who are born into and
grow up under the knowledge that they are powerless in the face of forces
that undermine the laws that govern their nation learn to avoid getting
involved, or adapt the old adage; if you can’t beat them, join them.
Thailand, like many other countries around the globe, is
facing a dilemma. How do we keep the rabble of criminals and delinquents at
bay since they now pose a threat to all of us - rich, poor, powerful or
Crime is on the rise in Thailand and it’s no secret
outside our borders. But more alarming is the viciousness of the
perpetrators and the alarming statistics of senseless murder and
assassinations motivated by petty revenge, small amounts of money, drug
deals gone sour, romantic quarrels, territorial disputes, and daylight
What has changed so drastically in the past few years
that triggered this blatant disrespect for law, order and human life in a
Buddhist nation that supposedly bases its primary guidelines for social and
moral behavior on teachings that hold most dear the respect for all living
Contempt (like wisdom, knowledge, and wealth) is
accumulative. Decades of corruption, lack of law enforcement, lazy and
dishonest officials running the show, poverty and indifference toward modern
education adds up - and eventually a huge number of citizens simply take
matters into their own hands and the outcome is small-scale anarchy.
Because of neglect, a huge proportion of our population
lacks the knowledge and instruction for rules that govern a civilized
society. Left to their own devices the masses act on basic primal
principals. That doesn’t mean that all ordinary people here are born
thieves and killers. However, it does send a signal through the years that
if and when individuals feel thwarted and realize they will never have
access to opportunities which would improve their lot, criminal activities
which will either enrich them or empower them are very tempting options.
With this in mind, we can deduce that entrenched
corruption in law enforcement and political administration is certainly more
an advantage than an impediment to anti-social behavior. In other words, the
criminal elements in our society are pretty sure they can get away with it
because their so-called ‘role models’ have already written the handbook
entitled, “How to make a killing without getting caught”.
To be fair, the central government in Bangkok has finally
conceded this whole crime thing has gotten out of hand and without some
tough laws and cooperation from authorities around the nation, things look
set to get a lot worse. New legislation needs to be expedited since the laws
on the books are outdated and address a Thai society which doesn’t exist
One of the most heartbreaking ramifications of rapid
social changes taking place in Thailand during the past decade is the
perpetration of brutal crimes committed by our young people. Traditional
Thai values were effective in the days when the kingdom was basically an old
fashioned agrarian society and kids on the farm were trained and supervised
by their family and community.
These old ways don’t connect with our youngsters
anymore. The chasm between the old teachings and the reality of modern life
makes a mockery of these outdated methods. Our young people are too informed
and savvy to be fooled into absorbing what they interpret as
‘fairytales’. What we are experiencing here in Thailand is a
There is another highly visible factor that has to be
added to the equation in our increasing social problems which crosses all
income, class and educational boundaries. It is obvious that the mental
health of our citizens is deteriorating. And the system is completely
inadequate and unprepared to address and provide aid to fix this problem.
Mental illness and emotional disorders have always been
with us. Although Thai medical services, expertise and access have improved
to the level of proud achievement, the area of mental health care has been
Schools do not provide psychological councilors, most of
the clergy is not equipped to help mentally disturbed people in their
districts, and law enforcement agencies are already overwhelmed and
The present crime rate involving young people signals a
serious escalation of personality disorders and psychopathic misfits. Left
untreated and ignored, these wayward youths grow up to be hardened criminals
with long rap-sheets, and eventually become assassins, gangsters and even
powerful members of our own communities.
There is no one solution to this long list of social ills
because of the variations and complications. Even if we could find a
‘quick fix’ we need to concede that some individuals are just not going
to be rehabilitated, no matter what. What we really need to consider is
taking this dangerous element of society off the streets and locking them up
for a very long time. It’s called ‘zero tolerance’.
A little more than a decade ago the USA was fed up with
its evil reputation for crime and its negative consequences. A growth
industry was introduced which allowed states to compete to submit tenders to
build more prisons to house the rising population of hardened prisoners
which either would not or could not successfully re-enter society.
Thailand’s jails and prisons are overflowing and
convicts are being released to prey on the innocent public simply because of
the massive turnover. We really ought to think about building more prisons.
Does Thailand really need another 5-star hotel or shopping center, or
another low cost, ill built housing estate? Think about it. It did wonders
for regional economies in the USA and definitely lowered the crime rate.