Some 40 participants attended the Chongqing University and Chiang Mai University Joint Conference on “Regionalization of Development: The Dynamics of Inclusion and Inclusion in Southwest China and Southeast Asia” on 2-3 July 2016 at the Operational Building, Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University. As both regions are beginning to grow together, the event was timely hold and organized by the Center for ASEAN Studies (CAS), Center for Research and Academic Services (CRAS) of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and Regional Center for Social Sciences and Sustainable Development (RCSD), Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University.
The two-day conference offered 9 panels under such themes as roads and rails, spaces and urban landscapes, economies and borders, pluralism and identity, Diaspora and social relations, connectivity and mobility, China & trans-border economy, as well as religion and movements. From a myriad of interesting presentations, only a few are mentioned here as typical examples to show the regionalization of development.
- Dr. Zhun Zhong, Chongqing University, talked about China’s “railway diplomacy” trying to connect its domestic railway network with neighboring Southeast Asia under the support of Beijing’s grand strategy of “One Belt, One Road”. But especially the Sino-Thai railway co-operation in the proposed trans-ASEAN corridor from China to Singapore has not achieved an agreement on the precise cost of the project and the term of loan and Japan is waiting on the sideline.
- Thai Weerachart Kaewpradit, International Accountability Project, talked about the “Tragedy of the Mekong River Governance”. Since 1995 the regional Mekong River Commission (MRC) has commissioned 26 hydropower dams from the upstream to downstream Mekong River Basin, while 3 hydropower dams are already under construction without any consideration of the impacts. 20 years later, the China-led Lancang-Mekong Co-operation (LMC) was established to contribute to the current situation and it has to be seen if the regional tragedy can be delayed.
- Swedish PhD candidate Henrik Moeller, Lund University, talked on ethnicity, jade trade, and conflict in the “Sino-Myanmar Borderlands”. The discussion was based on events related by a Rohingya man, who works as a jade trader inRuili, China’s Yunnan Province, opposite Muse, Myanmar’s Shan State. Actually, the Rohingya man had to flee Myanmarbecause of the on-going Buddhist-Muslim conflicts there and now has to make sense of his ethnic identity and position in a wider social-symbolic order.
- Dr. Shirley Worland, RCSD, Chiang Mai University, talked about the hopes and fears of returning refugees on the “Thai-Myanmar Border”. After the Myanmar elections in November 2015 that were won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD Party, expectations are high as to what the new government priorities will be to repatriate refugees from the camps.
- Dr. Mukdawan Sakboon & Dr. Prasit Leepreecha, Chiang Mai University, talked about citizen problems among “Highland Ethnic Groups” in Northern Thailand. Also called hill tribes, presently it is estimated that the total population of them is around 1.5 million, but around 370,000 people still lack of Thai citizenship. Due to their distinctive history and culture, state government perceived them as “others” who could easily be a threat to the national security. But this has caused a tremendous insecurity among the hill tribes and should be addressed accordingly.
- PhD candidate Dr. Simon Rowedder, National University of Singapore, talked on “Trading Fruits of National Differences” – a case of the Thai Fruit Trade in the Yunnan-Laos-Thailand borderland economy. By focusing on the Tai Lue Village of Ban Huay Meng in Chiang Khong District, Chiang Rai Province, the social fabric is determined from commodity (fruits) to quality to national stereotypes. In other words: When Thai fruit quality crosses the border, it is normal fruits for Laos and good fruits to China.
- Dr. Zhang Nan, Chongqing University, talked about the “Chinese Overseas Tourists” being or becoming “a part of the world”. The tourists are the research of this study and are single individual travelers or travel in a group tour. For describing the tourism process before the tour and after the tour, Chongqing in China is chosen to study how people construct their tour before leaving and coming back. For during the tour, Chiang Mai is chosen, as more and more Chinese will come there with airlines from China to Chiang Mai or on the new super highway from Kunming in Yunnan to Chiang Mai.
- PhD candidate Ma Xiaoxiao, Sun Yat-sen University at Chiang Mai University, talked about “Money and Deities” concerning the Thai Chinese communities in Chiang Mai along the Mae Ping River. She mentioned 44 Overseas Chinese Associations, which play a significant role in facilitating communal activities, especially some ritual practices of the members. It seems that Thai Chinese people with their “charities” strategically establish and improve their prestige and reputation within the society.
At the end of the scheduled panels, it was up to Achan Dr. Chayan Vaddhanaphuti (RCSD) to wrap up the contents of the successfully held conference and thank all the participants for their valuable contributions. In the same time, he gave notice to the two next upcoming important events in Chiang Mai, namely first the 13th International Conference on Thai Studies on 15-18 July 2017 under the theme “Globalized Thailand?” and second the 10th International Convention of Asia Scholars on 20-23 July 2017. Both events will be held at the new and elegant Chiang Mai International Exhibition and Convention Center.
Written by : Reinhard Hohler