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Well-organized APSA Conference took place in Chiang Mai
Reinhard Hohler, Chiang Mai (16.02.2014)

Under the theme “Transforming Societies: Contestations and Convergences in Asia and the Pacific” the well-organized Asia Pacific Sociological Association (APSA) Conference took place in Chiang Mai on February 15-16, 2014 at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University.

Jointly organized and supported by the National Research Council of Thailand, Siamese Association of Sociologists and Anthropologists, Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok and Asian Public Intellectuals Fellowships Program, the international conference drew some 416 registered participants from 98 universities, also including some NGOs from around the region.

The two-day conference featured two keynote speakers, namely Daw Seng Raw Lahpai, a Magsaysay Awardee from 2013, who talked about the still great divide between the nationalities in Myanmar, and Professor Jonathan Rigg, National University of Singapore, who elaborated on the widely hidden poverty in Southeast Asia.
Also, there were two highly prominent plenary sessions, one highlighting the transformative challenges for sociology in Asia and the Pacific, the other dwelling on contestations and convergences in Asia and the Pacific.
Out of the nearly 50 panel sessions, the following presentations are just some of the more outstanding ones to mention:

 Volker Grabowsky, University of Hamburg, who gave a talk on the Preah Vihear conflict between Cambodia and Thailand.
 Peter Kunstadter, Program for HIV Prevention and Treatment (PHPT), Chiang Mai, who mentioned HIV stigma as viewed by members of four ethnic groups in Northern Thailand.

 Miss Aranya Siriphol, Chiang Mai University, who talked on border “guanxi” at work in Mae Sai and China’s and Taiwan’s influence in Northern Thailand.

 Miss Pinkaew Laungaramsi, Chiang Mai University, presented “Commodity or Sovereignty: Special Economic Zones and the neo-liberalization of the Lao Frontier.”

 Dr. Hart Nadav Feuer, University of Bonn, who talked on ASEAN integration and runaway privatization in Cambodian higher education.

 Lecturer Prasit Leepreecha, Chiang Mai University, examined Christian propagation among Hmong people in Upper Mainland Southeast Asia.

 Flora Bawi Nei Mawi, Chiang Mai University, who highlighted the politics of negotiating the meaning of bride price culture by Chin women in Myanmar.

 Mak Sithirith, Royal University of Phnom Penh, presented “Mekong dams in tributaries: Contributing to trans-boundary co-operation in the context of climate change.”

 Carl Grundy-Warr, National University of Singapore, who talked on the problem of flows, pulses, and rhythms in the Greater Mekong Basin.

Furthermore, the conference featured the mind-opening film titled “Guns, Briefcases and Inequality: The neglected war in Kachin State” followed by the presentation “Myanmar’s Transition: Prospects for Peace and National Reconciliation” by Mr. Alex James from Burma Partnership. Last not least, there was a nice exhibition worth to be seen by Victoria Vorreiter called “Majesty in the Mountains: Traditional Culture of the Highland Peoples of Southeast Asia.”

All in all, it was more than obvious that the whole conference was well-organized and heartily hosted, including a professional and cultural performance during a dinner reception on the evening of February 15. Special thanks for that go to Dr. Chayan Vaddhanaphuti, Director of the Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development (RCSD), Faculty for Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University, who gave the opening and closing remarks of this well-attended international conference.

Finally, it was announced that a similarly important conference is on the horizon coming to be held at Ubon Ratchathani University, Thailand on September 11-12, 2014 under the theme: “Mekong Region and ASEAN in Transition: People and Trans-border Issues.”


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It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

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