Anand: Peace can be instilled as instinct in young to end violence

Bangkok Post, October 30, 2007

Instilling peace as a "basic instinct" in younger people is crucial to stopping violence in Southeast Asia, former prime minister Anand Panyarachun said yesterday.

"Violence has inhabited the global community for centuries and it won't go away," said Mr. Anand. "We can't eliminate the use of violence, but we can curtail it by encouraging youngsters to think about peace, though the process might be time-consuming."

He was speaking at a press conference ahead of the first Asean-wide event series "Bridges - Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace", starting next month in Thailand and the Philippines and running until April next year. Facilitated by the Vienna-based International Peace Foundation, the event follows two Bridges series held in Thailand between November 2003 and April 2005, when almost 40 Nobel laureates and keynote speakers gave lectures on various fields, including economics, peace, physics, chemistry and medicine.

Mr. Anand, who spoke in his capacity as the Thai honorary chairman of the Bridges programme, said he did not expect the Bridges platform would cause abrupt changes to government policies, which have been dominated by the use of force.

Even leaders of countries like the United States and Great Britain, where non violence and peace issues had been widely discussed, still think that war is the sole solution to international conflicts, as seen by their decisions to send troops to Iraq, he said.

"The peace-building process is. not something that can be achieved in a year or two. It is a long-term process and has to be the initiative of the people," he said, adding that by implanting peace instincts among the public, especially the younger generations, this region of the world will eventually find that peace.

Governments were not the target groups of this lecture series, but youths, academics, intellectuals and the general public, he said.    .
"Once people have these kinds of peace and reconciliation instincts, they will put pressure on their governments to make the move [toward peace-oriented policies]. And hopefully, the governments will have to change to respond to public sentiment," said Mr. Anand.

Thai society, he said, was full of violence in all forms - including domestic violence in the home against women and children.

The knowledge the Thai public will gain from listening to Nobel laureates and other keynote speakers in the Bridges series will help them come up with the means to alleviate this Violence, said the former prime minister.

Prof Robert Alexander Mundell, the 1999 Nobel laureate for economics from Columbia University, dubbed the father of the theory of optimum currency areas, will be the first to give a lecture under the Bridges series on Nov 12 at Siam University.