HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Ninth Mekong Tourism Forum in Chiang Mai

Rotarians meet in Phrae

Lion Clubs District 310 Thailand Convention

Ninth Mekong Tourism Forum in Chiang Mai

Believing in the beauty of your dreams

Marion and Michael Vogt

One hundred and eighty nine representatives from governments, international organizations and travel related companies across the Mekong region attended a forum organized by PATA in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP).

Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat, representing the local government, discussing tourism-related issues with PATA’s Peter de Jong.

PATA’s Peter de Jong called for cooperation between the six Mekong countries pointing out that the attraction for international visitors is visible and countable, comparing a figure of 10.4 million in 1996 to 16.5 million in 2002.

Alfredo Perdiguero, Project Economist, Social Sectors Division, Mekong Department, of the ADB said, “Tourism is one of the best instruments to reduce poverty, through increased foreign exchange earnings and taxes, diversified regional development and creation of employment. But we have to protect the cultural and environmental heritage of the Mekong countries.”

Professor Kaye Chon, the first keynote speaker of the forum.

The first keynote speech of the forum was delivered by Professor Kaye Chon, the Chair Professor and Head of School of Hotel and Tourism Management at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Professor Chon, a charismatic speaker (listed in ‘Who’s Who’), put the main emphasis on enhancing competitiveness through service quality improvement and available entrepreneurship skills throughout his address. He asked the seminar to think about fundamental issues such as national leadership development in tourism, and the need to create an annual ‘Leadership Forum of Tourism Ministers’ from all GMS countries. He asked delegates of the government and the private sector to realize the potentials which are just waiting here. The development of an Asian Paradigm of education, by integrating unique Asian values like the culture and expanding the horizon with an international curriculum. He explained that the race for service has no finish line. As the race progresses, the finish line moves further away. Those who do not move forward move backward. Those who do not move faster than their competitors move backward.

Prof Chon concluded the first keynote speech of this 9th Mekong Forum with the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, saying: ‘The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.’

Rotarians meet in Phrae

“Lend a Hand” is their prayer

Rebecca Lomax

When Rotary International President Jonathan B. Majiyagbe of Nigeria was unable to attend the Rotary District 3360 Conference in Phrae last weekend, he sent outstanding Rotarian and Past District Governor Tjetje Sjamsu of Indonesia to represent him.

The delegation from Rotary Club Chiang Mai West, sitting from left, President Manit Mantala, P.P. Somjin Ruangkit and Club Secretary Rachan Phonchevin while Rotarian Frank Weicks and Dr. Rebecca Lomax stand behind.

Tjetje Sjamsu retired as a brigadier general from the Indonesian Army in 1996. He then served as senior executive vice president of the Indonesian Defense Industry and advisor to former Indonesian President Habibe when he was minister of research and development for his country.

As keynote speaker to this gathering of over 200 Rotarians, he noted the past achievements of Rotary International and its present worldwide status. Founded in 1905 in the United States, Rotary now has 1,250,000 members worldwide in 36,000 clubs in 166 countries.

The Rotary International theme for 2004 is “Lend a Hand”, and Tjetje Sjamsu ably illustrated how Rotary has lent a hand through the years, as well as how the present and future activities of its many clubs will continue to support this theme.

UNESCO has reported that there are over 900 million people in the world who are illiterate, 2/3rds of those are women. 150 million children do not go to school. Of those who do begin their education, 1/3rd do not complete elementary school.

To address these deficits in education, Rotary established a scholarship program in 1947. Since that time 35,000 scholarships have been awarded worldwide. In 2004 the first designated Peace Scholars will graduate from college and enter the world political and peace arenas.

Rotary International has sponsored over 7,000 youth exchange programs fostering understanding and friendship. Wearing t-shirts with a motto of, “Building world peace and friendship one student at a time”, several large groups of exchange students were in the audience for Tjetje Sjamsu’s address. The exchange students, who represented Thailand, Japan, Hungary, Brazil, Mexico and the USA, introduced themselves to the gathering and played music and performed dances from their home countries. Most of the students tried to introduce themselves in Thai language, and their efforts were well-appreciated by the Rotarians.

In addition to student scholarships and exchange programs, Rotary International has also supported 44,500 Group Study Exchange programs in over 100 countries. Under the auspices of local Rotary Clubs, small groups of young professionals work and study along side professionals from other countries. A recent GSE program between clubs in clubs in the United States and District 3360 exchanged teachers, dentists, journalists, public relations specialists and travel agents who exchanged ideas, culture and techniques to build lasting friendships. Tjetje Sjamsu noted that Rotary International has invested over USD 73 million in hunger, health and humanity programs. The Polio Eradication program alone has invested USD 5 million in contributions by Rotarians to vaccinate children against this devastating disease. Over 2 million children in 122 countries have been vaccinated since the beginning of this program.

Once again according to UNESCO, over 1 million people in the world suffer from some degree of hunger and malnutrition-related diseases. Rotary International funding goes to programs to combat not only hunger but also the causes of hunger.

Tjetje Sjamsu stated that the problems of the world are so great that Rotary’s investments, no matter how large, cannot fully address the need. But he also said that “however small our contribution, maybe only a drop in the ocean of need, it means something to those individual people we help.”

Rotary International’s theme “Lend a Hand”, and its strategic plan calls for lending a hand to eradicate disease, provide education, resolve international conflict and find lasting peace. Most of all, “We will lend a hand to combat disease, we will lend a hand to help educate those for whom obtaining an education has been a financial impossibility, and we will lend the hand of friendship to Rotarians the world over” -Rotarians who are actively working on these projects.

Lion Clubs District 310 Thailand Convention

A roaring success

Thousands of Lions were seen roaming the main streets from Charoen Muang Road to Thapae Gate last weekend - a ferocious sight!

Chiang Mai was the host for the 38th Thailand Convention of Lions Clubs in District 310. It was held at Lotus Pang Suan Kaew Hotel, and was officially presided over by privy councilor Plakorn Suwannarat.

A group of Lions waiting for the grand parade to pass by. (Photo by Saksit Meesubkwang)

Chiang Mai Municipality, Chiang Mai Provincial Authorities, Chiang Mai Provincial Administration Organization, Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce, and the Tourist Authority of Thailand, Northern Office, Region 1 also got involved as city hosts to welcome Lions Club members from throughout the country.

The convention was organized around the concept of finding methods to help society and disadvantaged people. Around 2,000 members participated, along with 300 members from the Leo Club (youth).

Chatree Lertsirimongkolchai, the convention chairman, said the convention would show the potential of Chiang Mai, particularly as regards tourism.

During the convention, there was a grand parade of all Lions Clubs from throughout the country, followed by a Lions Night party, booths displaying OTOP products and export items, and a Lions Golf competition, a VIP tour program in Chiang Mai, and Leo youth club camping.

Lions Club International is a charity organization founded in 1917 and has been established in Thailand since 1957. There are 310 Lions Club branches in every region of Thailand.