Report on Bangkok Visit - Nov 22-25, 2005 -

Kazuo OIKE

November 22

We flew to Bangkok, Thailand to participate in the 7th Kyoto University International Symposium “Coexistence with Nature in a ‘Glocalizing’ World – Field Science Perspectives.” The flight from Kansai International Airport to Don Muang International Airport in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, took approximately six hours. Participants from Kyoto University included 13 graduate students, 33 members of staff from the Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies, the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, the Disaster Prevention Research Institute, the Graduate School of Agriculture, the Graduate School of Informatics, the Graduate School of Medicine, and the Central Administration, as well as Director-General of the Organization for the Promotion of International Relations Toshio Yokoyama, my wife and myself.

On the plane with me were eminent researchers from Kyoto University, including Professor Yamada, Associate Professor Arai, Professor Ichikawa and Professor Tanaka. At the airport we were met by the committee chief for this conference, Professor Hiramatsu, and his colleagues. It had been 16 years since I last visited Bangkok, and I was surprised to see all the new high-rise buildings, roads and clean cars.

November 23

This was the first day of the symposium. As the world becomes increasingly globalized, it is becoming more important to not lose sight of regional and national features and conditions, and the relationship between humankind and nature. ‘Glocalizing’ is a keyword that was coined to express this state of affairs

I was given the privilege of opening the symposium with a few remarks, after which greetings were made by representatives of cooperating organizations, namely Secretary General Ahnond Bunyaratvej of the National Research Council of Thailand, Rector Surapon Nitikraipot of Thammasat University, and President Viroch Impithuksa of Kasetsart University. Each session also saw participants from Chulalongkorn University and Chiang Mai University, and discussions spanned a broad range of topics, from the damage caused in last year’s tsunami and the recovery process that followed, to food safety and the natural environment in Asia

We were also able to take advantage of the opportunity provided by this trip to Thailand to conclude memorandums for academic cooperation and exchange with both Thammasat University and Chulalongkorn University.

Thammasat University is a royal university that was established in 1933.The scarf in the photograph features the university’s name. I understand that yellow and red are the colors of Thammasat University.

I had previously made the “acquaintance” of President Khunying Suchada Kiranandana of Chulalongkorn University through a video letter she sent offering congratulations on the 40th anniversary of Kyoto University’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies. Her university, established in 1917, is the oldest university in Thailand, and has a history of sending researchers to and receiving researchers from Kyoto University departments such as the Graduate School of Engineering, the Graduate School of Agriculture and the Center for Southeast Asian Studies.

I hope that these agreements will encourage even more active exchanges between our universities in the future.

At the dinner reception I spoke on the topic of “glocalizing” using the Thai silk tie that I was wearing as an example. I had interesting discussions with the students sitting at my table as well. I spoke with a graduate student about our table decoration, as it featured a specimen of Usnea, a kind of lichen that in Japan is only found deep in the mountains, but according to this student, this specimen could also be found in the Chang Mai mountain area of Thailand as well. I was also invited by graduate students researching in Africa to visit them in the field.

November 24

The program for the second day of the symposium included poster presentations by graduate students. Seeing these students from both Thailand and Japan so energetically engaged in their research, I felt confident about their bright futures.

In between sessions at the symposium, Associate Professor Nobuaki Arai took me to visit the 21COE Bangkok Research Center operated by the Graduate School of Informatics. I had previously mentioned the findings of this research center in a commencement speech, and I look forward to the day when the studies of sea turtles and dugong conducted here can also be applied to the protection of living organisms in Japan.

About Associate Professor Nobuaki Arai’s research.
Exploring the Behavior and Ecology of the Mekong Giant Catfish.Kurenai Moyuru. Vol. 6. (Japanese only) (PDF)

I also had a delightful lunch at a Thai restaurant near the office where I enjoyed a meal of sticky rice and catfish.

The symposium was brought to a close with a special lecture by Yoneo Ishii, President of the National Institutes for the Humanities, Japan. Professor Ishii is revered by many young researchers, and his lecture left a deep impression on me.

After the symposium came to a successful end, I participated in a farewell party held in the hotel courtyard hosted by Dean Ichikawa of the Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies. Surrounded by tropical trees, we enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere as we shared our impressions of the symposium and took commemorative photographs. Researchers from many different countries took part in the party, and words of praise for Kyoto University’s area studies research could be heard.

After the farewell party, we went to the Bangkok Liaison for the Center for Southeast Asian Studies. This office is one of four bases operated by Kyoto University in Bangkok, the others being the Graduate School of Science’s KAGI21 Satellite Office at Chulalongkorn University, the Graduate School of Informatics’ 21COE Bangkok Research Center, and the Kasetsart University NaGISA Research Center operated by the Field Science Education and Research Center. Of these four offices, the Bangkok Liaison for the Center for Southeast Asian Studies has the longest history, having been established in 1963. At a time when it was still unusual for Japanese people to travel overseas, the Bankok Liaison was used as a base of operations for conducting fieldwork in Southeast Asia. In addition to living quarters for the resident officers, there are rooms for students to stay in, as well as an extensive library.

These facilities will no doubt continue to be assets to Kyoto University, as they provide places for many people to meet and exchange information. The people that work in these offices are also a precious resource, and we are indebted to them for having looked after our researchers for so many years. Through this visit I was also reminded of those companies and translators whose cooperation made it possible for Kyoto University researchers to produce the research results that they have.

November 25

No visit to Bangkok would be complete without seeing the Chao Phraya River, which is what we did before departing. Professor Hiramatsu kindly accompanied us to the airport to bid us farewell.

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