HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

BMW dealer in Chiang Mai ready for APEC meeting

Bon Voyage Michael and Karen Kemp

Cultures battle for Charity

Chiang Mai YMCA promotes Thai - Singapore relationships through youth work camp program

Religious leaders of many faiths gather for International Conference on Religion and Globalization

Would Jesus, Buddha or Mohammed drive an SUV?

Excerpts from the welcoming remarks by Dr. Saisuree Chutikul

Social commentary by khai khem

BMW dealer in Chiang Mai ready for APEC meeting

Marion Vogt
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, Faham District.

The 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.

From 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 details’.

Jumpol 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.

‘Mini’ 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 taste.

The 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 experience.

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.

HSH 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.”

Dr. 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.”

The 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.”

It 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

Marion Vogt
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.

Hagen 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.

Marc 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.

Bud 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 ‘coffee duck’.

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.

From 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.

Outgoing 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 Seasons Resort.

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 in between.

A 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 spontaneous applause.

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.

From 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.

Michael 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.

Djulie 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.

Although 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.

A farewell-hug - ever-so-elegant Suchid von Boehm-Bezing and outgoing GM Michael Kemp.

Annette (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

Michael Vogt

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?

It 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.

Bob 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.

They 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 test.

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.

Jury, 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 Nestle).

The jury was also happy to announce that all 3 products were not only delicious, but also very worthy competitors; however, only one can win.

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 Foundation

Our 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.

Skilled 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, 

This 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 attendance.

The 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]

Thai 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

Marion Vogt

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.

Dr. 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 months.”

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.

Father 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 ethics.

Rev. 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 understanding.

Bishop 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 addresses started.

Venerable 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.”

Dr. 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).

Sorakit 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.”

Dr. 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 us.”

Remarks 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 faith.”

Ruben 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 ourselves.”

Would Jesus, Buddha or Mohammed drive an SUV?

Religious Identity and Globalization

Marion Vogt

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.

Louis 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 conference.

Ajarn 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 2003.

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.

Dr. 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 person.

Here are just some of his ideas on the clarification of globalization:

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.

It 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 acquisitive greed.”

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 Buddhists.

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 27:

“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 label ‘Globalization’.

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 to it.

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 inconsequential?

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 robbery.

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 things?

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 anymore.

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 ‘generation gap’.

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 noticeably neglected.

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 undermanned.

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.