In the limelight

Bangkok Post, Outlook - Saturday, April 05, 2003

Royal couple build 'Bridges' Here to prepare host Thailand for start of ambitious conflict-resolution programme.

A recent high-profile event in Bangkok was the unofficial visit by Prince Alfred and Princess Raffaella of Liechtenstein to promote world peace. Interestingly, intentional or otherwise, their arrival coincided with the outbreak of war in Iraq.

More specifically, though, the visit was to promote an upcoming series of events entitled "Bridges-Dialogue Towards a Culture of Peace" which Nobel laureates and top artists are expected to attend in Bangkok from November onwards. Coming immediately after the Apec ministerial conference in October, it should help keep Thailand firmly in the global limelight.

Prince Alfred is chairman of the advisory board to the Vienna-based International Peace Foundation, which is under the patronage of 21 Nobel Peace Prize laureates. Thailand has been chosen to host the event because, according to a statement released by the foundation, "the wisdom and spiritual leadership of HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej as the shining example for inner and outer peace, Thailand has the ability to promote peace and the potential to stabilize the region."

Furthermore, tolerance and the Middle Path as promoted by Buddhist philosophy are closely akin to the culture of peace and non-violence. "Bridges" will bring to Thailand over the next two years a number of Nobel Prize laureates and leading personages in the fields of international politics, economy, science, culture, religion and the media.

They will join with counterparts in Thailand to establish an atmosphere for the creative resolution of conflicts to counter the growing threats of war and international terrorism and participate in a series of seminars and public events.

Prince Alfred and Princess Raffaella were here to do the groundwork for the event, and during their week-long stay they met with the elite in various circles, from politics, academia and social development to religion, business and the armed forces.

These influential individuals included former prime minister Anand Panyarachun; Prof Chaiwat Satha-Anand from the Peace Centre at Thammasat University; MR Chatu Mongkol Sonakul, former governor of the Bank of Thailand;
Dr. Gothom Arya, chairman of the Thailand Peace and Cultural Foundation; Ian Porter, country director of the World Bank; Dr. James Klein, a representative of the Asia Foundation; Father Joseph Maier, director of the Human Development Foundation; SEA Write awardee Naovarat Pongpaiboon; academic and activist Prof Nidhi Eoseewong; Supreme Commander Gen Surayud Chulanont; Prof. Prawase Wasi from the Faculty of Medicine at Siriraj Hospital; Saisuree Chutikul from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child; and Dr. Sumet Tantivejkul from the Chaipattana Foundation. Many of these distinguished people attended a reception at the Dusit Thani Hotel, hosted by
Uwe Morawetz, chairman of the International Peace Foundation, in honour of the royal visitors. Their itinerary for the week also included a special recital of Haydn's Missa in Tempore Belli organized at the Thailand Cultural Center by Somtow Sucharitkul; a reception, exhibition and cultural programme with artists, journalists, businesspeople and representatives of different religions at Mae Chee Sansanee,s Sathira-Dhammasathan Centre; and a reception hosted by Uthai Pimchaichon, Speaker of the House of Representatives, at Parliament.

Big names confirmed to make an appearance for "Bridges" events include Vanessa Mae, Richard Clayderman, Jessye Norman, Mario Vargas Llosa, Margaret Atwood, Franz Beckenbauer, Boutros Boutros-Ghali and Ute Lemper. During their visit, Prince Alfred and Princess Raffaella also presented a cheque from the foundation worth one million baht to Father Joe Maier, director of the Human Development Foundation, to support street children and people with Aids.

Usnisa Sukhsvasti, Bangkok Post Outlook