UBRJ seminar titled, "Southeast Asian Borders: Looking at Thailand's Northern Borderlands" took place at the Slavic and Eurasian Research Center on July 13th. Three distinguished scholars from the Mae Fah Luang University in Chiang Roi province, located in the northern Thailand, gave a talk on their respective research fields.
Prof. Siriporn Wajjwalku, the Dean of the School of Social Innovation at the Mae Fah Luang University kicked off the seminar with her opening remarks and introduced the ventures of the School of Social Innovation at Mae Fah Luang University. One of the main objectives of this school is to focus on the ASEAN community and regional integration of this vast borderland of northern Thailand, situated in a region that shares borders with Myanmar and Laos. When you look at Thailand in its entirety, it shares borders with Cambodia and Malaysia, thus, there is much potential for expanding border studies in the area.
This was followed by a lecture on "An Efficiency of Local Administrative Organization in Chiang Rai Province Toward a Mitigation of Earthquake Disaster" by Dr. Wanwalee Inpin (Assistant Dean, School of Social Innovation, Mae Fah Luang University). She talked about the current relations between the Thai central and Chiang Rai local government and the potential for decentralization regarding the mitigation of earthquake disaster following a disastrous earthquake of 6.1 magnitude in the area last year. The four approaches that she has taken are decentralization, autonomy, top-down and bottom up approaches and while this is an ongoing research, she pointed out the potential of decentralization and promoting more efficiency in local government when faced with life threatening disaster.
The last lecture titled, "Footloose Gem Traders and the Grey-shaded Border Space of Mae Sai Border Town" by Dr. Yuthpong Chantrawarin (Director of Research Center, School of Social Innovation, Mae Fah Luang University) who presented his work on gem trading in the Mae Sai border town. There are several ethnic migrants in the northern part of Thailand that are involved in gem training, and he focused on the Chanthaburi people who started trading gems since the 1990s. The gem trade itself brings 4 million US dollars of profit a day, and was one of the top export products. The relocation of Chanthaburi people, the ethnic armed conflict, as well as the ADB-GMS infrastructure contributed to the facilitation of gem trade boom, however, now with the Myanmar government's initiatives and Chinese capital, gem trading has died down in the area. He mentioned that the "footloose" Chanthaburi traders are now seeking new opportunities in Africa.
This seminar was a kickoff seminar for the collaboration between UBRJ and border studies community in Southeast Asia, and we look forward to educational and research collaboration with Mae Fah Luang University in the near future.
(written by Naomi CHI)