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Vol. XIV No. 32
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by Saichon Paewsoongnern

 

 

 

 

FEATURES
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]: 

An Asian experience at Asian University

Bingo evening at Bangkok Pattaya Hospital benefits the street kids of Mercy Center

In the Zone


An Asian experience at Asian University

“A great experience!”

Visiting students were able to show off some of the traditions from their home countries during international night.

All the visiting students enjoyed their experience.

Dr Astrid Kainzbauer, Netikan Roopngarm,
and Sue. K of PMTV

In July 2006, Asian University welcomed seventy-three students from thirteen different countries to its Summer University three-week course on business practices and cultures in Asia. They were based at the Welcome Jomtien Beach Hotel Pattaya.
Many of them were students of business and some of them already had many years of work experience.

The visitors were able to learn a little bit about Thai dancing.

At the opening ceremony on Monday July 10 at Asian University, the students were greeted by the non-academic staff dressed in traditional costumes along with children from a local school, who danced and sang, and placed garlands around the necks of the visitors.
Many of the European visitors have never been to Asia before, and were impressed by everyone’s friendliness, as were the others who are from countries as diverse as Mongolia, Bhutan and Sri Lanka.
Asian University had put together an exciting program including topics such as Economic Growth in Asia, an Asian perspective in International Marketing, and Cross-cultural Management in Asia. On top of these academic subjects, taught by professors of the Business faculty, a series of talks about Oriental Culture and Philosophy introduced aspects of Japanese, Indian and Thai religion and philosophy. For these talks, Asian University managed to attract some famous specialists in those fields.
Apart from the academic program, students were given a chance to experiment with activities such as Thai boxing, yoga and meditation, Thai dancing, Thai cooking, Thai massage and of course survival Thai language! Highlight of the program for many students was a talk with the Head Abbot at Wat Yan, who kindly offered the students some insights into Buddhism and the daily life of a monk in Thailand.
Field trips to experience the actual business environments included a company visit to Nestle Thailand, and the Bangkok-Pattaya Hospital, where students had a chance to discuss practical business issues with members of the management team.
Local sightseeing excursions took the students to Wat Yannasangwararam, Buddha Mountain, Nong Nooch Tropical Garden, and Koh Samet.
Two days in Bangkok offered the group the possibility to visit the Royal Grand Palace, some temples and markets, and to have dinner at the Royal Bangkok Sports Club. And a long weekend provided the opportunity for more distant trips: Phuket, Chiang Mai or Cambodia.

Learning Thai boxing was part of the experience of being here.
Back in Pattaya, international nights were organized, and students presented their own country and culture to the audience. This included demonstrations of traditional songs and dances, and the audience warmly welcomed the Mozart chocolates and schnubs brought out for them, among other souvenir items.
The Italian presentation also drew big laughter, with the students insisting that they were the right representatives for their country as from the very beginning their presentation tools didn’t work and all was unorganized. They of course proudly reminded all that Italy is the World Cup Champion, that is before showing slides about Italian chaotic habits in road traffic as compared to other EU member countries. All was in good fun and sharing of understanding and laughter.
The fun and laughter lasted until the final day, when all realized how quickly three weeks had passed and suddenly it was time to say goodbye. Tears rolled down international cheeks, while pledges were made to keep in touch with each other, and most of all to cherish the memories of the time in Thailand they shared together.
From the reactions of both participants and lecturers, it was certainly concluded that this was a wonderful experience, and that Asian University can definitely plan to repeat it in the future. One participant sums up his feelings as follows: “I really enjoy this Asian experience, and remember: always smile.” (Catia Luis, Portugal)

It was a fond, although somewhat sad farewell on the final night.


Bingo evening at Bangkok Pattaya Hospital benefits the street kids of Mercy Center

Stephan Roth
Bangkok Pattaya Hospital was the venue on July 28 for a bingo evening organized to benefit the children of the Mercy Center Foundation.

Fred and Dianne Doell, international directors of the Mercy Center, describe the activities undertaken to help street children.
Tony Malhotra greeted the many guests in English and Thai, and Monika Rottmann, an employee of the hospital, added greetings and translations in German. Fred and Dianne Doell, international directors of the Mercy Center, then took the microphone to describe the activities undertaken to help street children.
The proceeds of the bingo evening will be used to build an urgently required house for the Mercy Center, which opened in Pattaya in 2000.
The street children of Pattaya are at great risk, said Fred and Dianne. They are vulnerable to criminal exploitation, drugs, and sexual abuse. They have very few people they can turn to for help or comfort, and their whole life is about simply surviving.
To begin the evening a number of children from the Center sang for the guests, drawing a huge round of applause. Following this was a buffet dinner, along with a performance from cast members of Tiffany’s, the exotic beauties dancing to exciting music.
After this it was eyes down for the bingo. The drawing of the numbers took place on the stage. Prizes included many hotel and restaurant vouchers, a steamer, a DVD player, a television and a refrigerator. Top prize was an iPod from the limited edition produced in commemoration of His Majesty the King’s 60th anniversary.
During the evening, Bangkok Pattaya Hospital eye surgeon Dr Somchai Trakoolshokesatian presented the Mercy Center with a check for 100,000 baht.

To begin the evening a number of children from the Center sang for the guests, drawing a huge round of applause.

Cast members of Tiffany’s dance to exciting music.

Neil Maniquez (center) and Tony Malhotra present a lucky winner with her prize.

Tony Malhotra (left) greeted the many guests in English and Thai, whilst Monika Rottmann (right) added greetings and translations in German.

Bangkok Pattaya Hospital eye surgeon Dr Somchai Trakoolshokesatian (center) presents the Mercy Center with a check for 100,000 baht.

Bingo? Well not quite yet, but almost…


In the Zone

Andrew Watson in Nahariya, Northern Israel
You might very well be wondering what on earth I’m doing in a war zone. Well I can tell you, on more than one occasion during the past three weeks, I’ve wondered the same thing myself. I seem to have almost involuntarily exchanged the peace and tranquillity of Thailand for a front line seat in the most serious Middle East conflict since the Gulf War.

Ohad Zeharia, “You can’t live under Katyusha rockets all the time.”
Everywhere I go, the impact of current and recent hostilities on ordinary civilians could not be more obvious. It seems to me bitterly ironic that the real picture of the devastation of civilian lives can be subordinated by the self-interested ‘big picture’ rhetoric of protagonists who purport to have their citizens’ interests uppermost in their minds; a position unsustainable considering the degree of human suffering for which they bear and must take responsibility. Seldom is a simple picture painted of what it’s really like for real people on both sides.
The morning stillness is punctured with unerring regularity by the sound of Katyusha rockets coming in and artillery shells going out. The booms reverberate around Nahariya, where I’ve taken shelter, and the Western Galilee, creating a sense of uncertainty and unease. Around me, there is a surreal calm to this usually bustling seaside town. There are hardly any cars on the streets. Outside the normally crowded apartment blocks there is deafening silence. Only the ‘boom, boom’ remains pervasive, sometimes distant, sometimes obviously closer. No children are on the street, or in the playgrounds. I half expect the child-snatcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to roll around the corner.

Me’er Amichai, outside his house in Nahariya, above a crater courtesy of a Katyusha.

At midday in midweek, midsummer, the beach is deserted. I turn back from the Mediterranean, the sea naturally oblivious to the ritual of human farce going on around it and I head back into town. I pass a few pedestrians, mostly elderly, taking advantage of a lull in the shelling, to snatch some provisions to take them through the next barrage. I pass through an area where the houses and apartment blocks have no windows, where the stone walls are pot marked by shrapnel wounds. There’s a man picking through the mess. He’s called Me’er Amichai. He’s one of the few residents of the town who haven’t taken flight south. There’s a crater about two metres wide and one metre deep blown out of the concrete in front of his house. Glass is everywhere. His house was hit by a Katyusha a week ago, at three o’clock in the afternoon, I’m told. Nobody was hurt.
Apparently there’s a kind of routine to the shelling. Early in the morning (the ‘wake up’ call), then a few salvoes after lunch, followed by another barrage at bedtime, to rock you to sleep, presumably. Almost civilised. Unlike what’s going on just a few kilometres across the border, or so I’m led to believe…
Watching the coverage from CNN, BBC, Sky and Channel 4, it’s a seemingly unending, unrelenting, nightmarish and deadly experience for the south Lebanese. It appears that there is just no chance of escape. Whereas I am able to walk with relative freedom around a town, listening for a siren, eyes peeled for the nearest bunker, I am cognisant that in these conditions of war, this is a luxury of life that is effectively denied to my fellow humans in villages over the next hill.
In south Lebanon, the infrastructure has been severely damaged; roads and bridges which might otherwise have brought respite, relief or a route to relative safety, have been obliterated. From the pictures, I’d say that the bunkers in which the Lebanese have been incarcerated for four interminable weeks are little more than the basements of buildings, providing as much protection, in many cases, as a lace curtain to a bullet. Such is the overwhelming capacity of Israeli fire power and the persistence of it, that I am surprised neither by the level of the suffering nor the scale of the destruction. Worse still, I feel like I’ve seen it all before.
Speaking with fellow journalists upon their return from Lebanon, they are emotional, shell-shocked and angry. Even veterans of conflicts from Bosnia to Kosovo to Somalia have been reduced to spitting (off the record) anti-Israeli venom at anyone who can bear to listen. They see a pariah state, acting with a deliberate disregard for human life, a hypocritical regime which on one hand demands a United Nations resolution and a multinational force in south Lebanon, whilst on the other, it targets (allegedly accidentally) and kills four UN personnel. There’s an unmistakeable note of despair in their voices. The repetitious nature of this conflict is repugnant; nobody seems able to visualize a long term solution, let alone a future characterised by peace.
Nobody defends Hezbollah. There is a general recognition amongst almost everybody I’ve met here and in Palestine; Arabs, Jews, Europeans and Persians alike, that the self-proclaimed ‘Party of God’ (what would HE think?) represents an example of all that is malevolent in the world today. Many regard them as a cynical group, bent on the destruction of another people based on their bigoted prejudice toward it, at the behest of Syria and Iran. Their sponsors’ denial of direct involvement, I am reliably informed, is provably preposterous. Hezbollah’s facetious talk of ‘resistance’ I am told, is an insult to the dead and the families of the dead, many of whom were either lured by false promises of safety, or coerced or threatened into staying put in their apartments and houses, turned into human shields until their homes became their tombs, at which point Hezbollah could cry ‘foul!’ In turn, the Israelis are derided for their wholesale onslaught in pursuit of their espoused objectives which remain elusive; to recover two kidnapped soldiers, taken during a deliberately provocative Hezbollah raid on July 12 and to extinguish the threat from myriad rockets. So far, their tactics have proved ineffective in preventing the one hundred or so Katyushas which explode into northern Israel every day, from being fired. So the cycle continues, punctuated by horrifying massacres (deliberate or not they’re still massacres) like the one at Qana.
I have close friends both sides of the border. In Lebanon, there is despair. Having rid themselves of the silent oppressor, the Syrians, only last year, the “Cedar revolution” was bearing fruit. No longer did the population have to exist in “survival mode” as they had learned to do through thirty years of despicable confrontations. Then came a unilateral act by Hezbollah.
I managed to get through to my friend Aline, in Beirut. She was understandably angry. Her fiancée is in the US and their wedding, planned for September, is now unexpectedly shrouded in uncertainty. What, I wondered, did she think of Hezbollah? “I think they need to be disarmed and should function like any other political party in the country - under the laws of the constitution. Normally I don’t like them and I fear their power. However, under these circumstances I find myself rooting for them. It’s like having to choose the better of two evils, so I choose the one that has done the least harm to other people.”
What about the ordinary Israeli? Newspaper polls show an astonishing 92% support the military action, despite the loss of civilian life in Lebanon. Ohad Zeharia is a student in real life. In wartime, he becomes a Sergeant in an IDF (Israel Defence Force) tank unit. In Israel, everyone is essentially in the army, notwithstanding the twenty percent of the population that is Arab and the Haredim (religious Jews), both of whom are exempt from military service. The idea of being part of the army is entrenched in the fabric of society in Israel, just as, I put to Ohad, Hezbollah is very much part of the culture in south Lebanon. They are a Shia political movement (and militia) which on its benign side, provides health and education to the population. So what’s the difference between them? “Hezbollah is a political army. It’s an army which belongs only to a small group of people. There is no agreement in Lebanon between everybody about this army. When we were there between 1982 and 2000, most of the people of south Lebanon were with us.” [South Lebanese Christian Militia]
Ohad continued, “It’s quite hard to understand Lebanon. Someone once said, ‘The problem is that the Shias fight with the Sunnis, the Sunnis fight with the Christians and all of them are fighting Israel.’” What’s it like living here in Nahariya? “You can’t live under Katyusha rockets all the time. Everyday, three times a day, fifty rockets a day. Five hundred thousand people from across the north have moved south. There is no life around here. All the people that have to work, work and the rest are not here. Sometimes they close the road. There are no buses from Haifa to the north. But psychologically, people support the war. They have had enough of this; the shootings and rockets from across the border.”
How does Aline feel about the horror of Qana? “I’m filled with hate. Not in an angry, agitated way but in a cool, calm way. I’ll have to pray against it. I don’t know how I’m going to pass an Israeli without spitting on them. Will Israeli TV show the footage of men, women and many children lying dead after the air raid? They’ll probably give the excuse that the people of Qana were forewarned. Do they know that these were poor people who had no means of escaping?”
What does Ohad think of all those Lebanese civilians who are being killed? “I feel sorry for them. Maybe they thought that Hezbollah was good for them but I guess they’re not. You can’t live in peace when they are there. For us, war has always been about our survival so I don’t celebrate when a Lebanese citizen dies, not even when a Hezbollah dies. I don’t even think their citizens are happy when Israelis die. I think that the media are responsible for giving that impression.”
What if Ohad were called up tomorrow and asked to go into Lebanon? “I would not have any problem with that. When you go to the army, you change your way of thinking. I would go in, do my job and hopefully come home alive.” How will it end? “The same way it started, just like that. The United States will say, ‘Stop’ and we’ll sit and talk about the people they took and we’ll exchange prisoners.” Will Hezbollah still be a threat? “I hope not.”
I am left with an overwhelmingly sad sense that the whole terrible business is tragically unnecessary. As ever in military conflicts, it’s the civilian, the individual whose main purpose in life is to work his way through one day in safety and happiness until the next, who is the victim. If the perpetrators of their misery truly cared about those they claim to represent, it wouldn’t happen. Their excuses are empty, dying claims in a graveyard of a thousand people.
The sun, by now a red ball of fire, slips quietly into the Mediterranean. Tomorrow, I hope, will bring better news.



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