Thammasat University Celebrates 20 Years of South East Asian Studies (SEAS)

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The 20th anniversary of Southeast Asian Studies (SEAS), Thammasat University, has just ended. It was not a regular party but an academic event that was held at the Faculty of Arts, Thammasat University, Tha Prachan campus.

“I want to celebrate the 20th anniversary of SEAS. I believe that SEAS has created graduates who are full of knowledge and understanding about Southeast Asian with the aim to be a good neighbor and friend. These graduates will help build a good and strong relationship with countries in the region.” This is the saying of Mr. Ouk Sorphorn, Ambassador of Cambodia in Thailand from the discourse of the 20th anniversary of SEAS and the 70th anniversary of Cambodia-Thailand diplomatic relationship.

Moreover, an ambassador also tells about the diplomatic relationship between Cambodia and Thailand which started in 1950. He also reveals that poverty in Cambodia reduced from 53% in 2014 to 10% in 2018. He promises to enhance the quality of life of people who have middle to low income to be middle to high income in 2030 and to be high income in 2050.

“Thailand exports energy, construction vehicles and equipment, industrial products, and consumer goods to Cambodia. Cambodia exports agricultural products to Thailand such as corn, soybean and tapioca starch.”

In the present, there are more than 1,000 Thai companies registered with the Ministry of Commerce of Cambodia. Thai tourists are the third-largest group in Cambodia which is 400,000 tourists in 2018 and 500,000 tourists in 2019” said Mr. Ouk Sorphorn. He also thanks Thailand that provides facilities to 1.2 million Cambodian workers in Thailand.

In this event, there are representatives from embassies such as Malaysia and Indonesia. There are fancy shows and shops that sell tangible cultural heritage products.

Special Professor Dr.Chanwit Kasetsiri, Former Director of TU and the founder of SEAS in 1999, says that for 20 years, there have been about 1,500 graduates. At first, I admit that I don’t think the program can last for 20 years because when we built this program, the educational industry did not believe that the program would be famous. Later, many students were interested even though the tuition fees were high because we support ourselves and didn’t use the national budget.

Another interesting point that the former director mentioned is the support and encouragement of the development of the “emerald triangle” along the Dangrek mountain range where there are many stone castles. It is the mutual civilization of 3 countries which are Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia.

“I want us to think about opening the border in Europe. I believe that it will make the economy in these countries better. We should support the relationship in 3 countries in the Mekong River region and other neighboring countries. If the government supports ASEAN and the Mekong river region, the emerald triangle will be very useful for people. We should support the relationship in citizen level not only national level or diplomatic level” said Special Professor Dr.Chanwit.

In the 20th-anniversary celebration event, a book named “Southeast Asia on the Move” was launched and there is the discourse about “when people, area, and cultures cross border”. Asst.Prof.Dr.Pichet Saipan, Professor of Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology, TU, praises that 20 chapters in the book are profound work and very useful. The word “On the Move” is important to education in terms of shifting.

“Before globalization, there was shifting but it was not unregulated. Although we are on the move for a long time, it is not as chaotic as in the globalization era. Therefore, the important thing is how we can understand it. There are many people researching the shifting to different areas that determined its border, the political migration during the cold war and World War 2 in which many people shifted to different states. However, if we study by limiting to the area, we will not see a cultural adaptation and different dimensions of cross border education. When we move, the following result is culture. There is a change in cultural border in order to connect with the new society. Therefore, the border is not just a physical area but also related to social and cultural borders.”

Moving makes us discover new things all the time. People move because they have hope. When we are on the move, it means that we still have hope. People, society, and culture have a move, therefore, let’s move on ” said Asst.Prof.Dr.Pichet with his cliché quote.

Another discourse is under the topic “2020: New wave and change in the world and in SEA region”. “Asst.Prof.Dr.Dullayapak Preecharat”, Professor of SEAS, affirms that Southeast Asia now is the golden age of the “Hybrid” system or hybrid regime. Thailand is also entering a hybrid regime.

“We are entering the golden age of hybrid regime which is the mix between democracy and dictatorship. In hybrid regimes, countries that are not democratic will become more democratic but countries, where there are democracy’s regressions, will move towards dictatorship. Therefore, there is dynamic because these 2 attributes are against each other but sometimes they can mix together. The government in the transition era will experience this. However, there is some more stable hybrid such as Singapore. In the last decades, there is democracy but People’s Action Party-PAP always win the election”

Lastly, Asst.Prof.Dr.Dullayapak says a hopeless thing that we have to admit. He says that the thing we might not see in Thailand is “the complete democracy”. It is a sharp and piquant style of Asst.Prof.Dr.Dullayapak.

“Assoc.Prof.Dr. Pipob Udon”, Former Director of the Faculty of Commerce and Accountancy, TU, also attracts much audience’s attention on the important wave in the present. First, population change is the big change wave in the world that affects almost every country in the world. Second, technology waves will improve dramatically and change everything in our life. When we look at the world’s demography called “population pyramid”, it has a wide base starting with the young generation at the bottom and the older generation at the top. When we compared 1960, which is the ending of “baby-boomer” that started in 1946 after the World War 2, to 1990 or the 30 years later, we found out that the base becomes narrower. In the present, the population pyramid becomes a “funnel” shape which means that there are less birth and deaths. People live longer and women live longer than men.

“This issue affects the world because when there is low birth and death rate, the top part of the pyramid which is the elders becomes higher in number. The bottom part is people who cannot help themselves. The middle part is people who have to take care of the top and the bottom part. Labors will be scarce. In Thailand, the bottom becomes more and more narrow. In the next 10 years which is 2030, people who are above 65 will be more than 20%. If it reaches 30%, it is called an aged society. Japan might reach 40% followed by Thailand 30%, Korea and Germany.”

For ASEAN, Assoc.Prof.Dr. Pipob says that countries with the most teenagers are Laos and the Philippines. Singapore is the most worrisome country that is becoming an upside-down pyramid shape. Malaysia, Myanmar, and Indonesia are a funnel shape. Meanwhile, Brunei starts having this problem as well. Therefore, this is a big issue affecting many things, including human labor to build the economy, plan for entering the labor age and elder care plan.