Making a stand for peace

Bangkok Post, Outlook - Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Thailand to host a star-studded peace exhibition

All the world are players and Thailand is the stage for a two year series of high profile events to promote world peace. With the world on the brink of war once again, the International Peace Foundation of Vienna announced plans for a rolling, star studded exhibition for peace in Thailand from November to April of next year, and then again from November 2004 to April 2005.

Participants in “Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace” will come from a wide range of famed world personalities, including 21 Nobel Peace Prize winners, movie stars, musicians, activists and intellectuals.

Organizers said confirmations are already in hand from peace laureate Jose Ramos-Horta of East Timor, former UN secretary general Boutros Boutros-Ghali, human rights activist Bianca Jagger, writer Margaret Atwood, soccer legend Franz Beckenbauer, violinist Vanessa Mae, and Rev Jesse Jackson, the US civil rights activist. The foundation’s chairman of the advisory board is Prince Alfred of Liechtenstein. He and his wife Princess Raffaella are in Bangkok for the week to coordinate with various organizations to prepare for the event.

The series is to include more than 300 seminars, workshops, conferences and major public events, said chairman Uwe Morawetz. Each will have world dignitaries and celebrities calling for a culture of peace amidst growing threats of wars and terrorism.

Plans call for each participant to come to Thailand at intervals of about every two weeks, and stay about five days for a particular peace mission.

The organizers, hope that the participation of well known performing artists will help to make peace messages reach and inspire the public and younger generation.

At the reception for the Liechtenstein couple at the Sathira Dhammastan last Sunday Prince Alfred made an appeal for tolerance and respect for cultural diversity.

“Wise people throughout history have told us to open our hearts and minds, but we don’t listen,” said the prince.

When languages are insufficient to bridge gaps, “We should turn to the languages that all understand- the language of art, music, the songs of birds and nature and the language of our hearts. And if we respect and get inspired by diversity, we can celebrate life together.”

Princess Raffaella said she has high respect- and high expectations- for artists. She urged artists in all fields to work to uplift the human spirit.

“Artists can see things we cannot see, so I expect them to show the world the visions which should uplift the human spirit to a higher level of understanding and perception,” she said. Morawetz, the foundation's chairman, cited three reasons why Thailand gets to play host: its middle way culture, the wise and compassionate leadership of His Majesty the King, and a rich network of national and international organizations.

Thailand is a good, international platform to help the world understand the deeper dimensions of peace, and to promote respect for pluralism, he said. These can counter the spiral of violence and racism which dominates the world.

According to a foundation statement, a group of Thai peace advocates will help to draft the agenda. It will deal with development conflicts in a globalised world and the impacts of globalisation on Thailand. They include Dr. Chaiwat Satha-Anand, Dr. Gothom Arya, Senator Kraisak Choonhavan, Dr. Mark Tamthai and Assoc Prof Surichai Wan’gaeo.

During their week in Bangkok, Prince Alfred and Princess Raffaella will meet former prime minister Anand Panyarachun, President of the Parliament Uthai Pimchaichon, Supreme Commander Surayud Chulanont, Rector of Chulalongkorn University Tatchai Sumitra, European Commission Ambassador Klauspeter Schmallenbach and Unesco Director Sheldon Shaeffer.

A reception for the royal couple will be held this evening at 6 at the Dusit Thani Hotel.

By Sanitsuda Ekachai, Bangkok Post, Outlook