Webster Thailand Regional Dynamics in Asia Conference

From 22-23 February 2017, the Department of International Relations, Webster University Thailand, hosted an international seminar titled ‘Regional Dynamics in Asia: Case Studies from South and Southeast Asia’.

This seminar was the second stage of a larger collaborative project between Webster University Thailand and Calcutta University, and was organized as a formal activity under a Memorandum of Understanding that was signed in 2015. The first activity between the two institutions took place in early 2016 at Calcutta University in India.

Webster University Thailand International Relations conference

Dr.Rajagopal Dhar Chakraborti, Head, South & Southeast Asian Studies at Calcutta University; Dr.Keith E. Welsh, Rector, Webster University Thailand; Dr.Lipi Gosh, Professor, University of Calcutta; Dr.Suriya Chindawongse, Deputy Director General of ASEAN Affairs, Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Dr.Kenneth Houston, Department Head, College of Arts & Sciences WUT; Madhurima Chowdhury, Assistant Prof., University of Calcutta; Dr.Rachael M. Rudolph, Prof., Webster Thailand; Dr.Lindsey Kingston; Assoc. Prof., Webster Thailand, St. Louis; Dr.Roland Lochli Prof., Webster Thailand, Ms. Nina Raassakka, UNEP

The two-day seminar included keynote addresses and speeches by distinguished individuals from Thailand and abroad. Keynote speakers included Dr. Suriya Chindawongse, Deputy Director General of ASEAN at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ms. Nina Raasakka from the United Nations Environment’s Asia and the Pacific Office. Furthermore, Dr. Lindsey Kingston, associate professor at Webster University, St. Louis and director of its Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies provided a thought-provoking speech on the human rights situation across the region. She also highlighted the importance of the summit as “a way for faculty at Webster, for students, and for colleagues at other universities to get together and share our work.” Issues touched upon by other speakers included historical bilateral relations between Thailand and India, functional cooperation, migration, education, anti-narcotics policies and regional security.

In addition to the eminent aforementioned individuals, the summit also brought together other scholars from Webster University Thailand, Calcutta University and Thammasat University. A total of seven academic papers were presented across the two days on issues as diverse as regional interdependence, India’s foreign policy, Asian immigration to the United States, and connectivities between India and Thailand. Whilst quite disparate, each of the topics raised some of the most pertinent challenges to the traditional order of nation states.

Day one concluded with the presentation of three research papers, one by Professor Lipi Ghosh from the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies at Calcutta University, a second by Dr. Kenneth Houston and Richa Neog from Webster University Thailand’s International Relations Department, and a third by Professor Robin Ramcharan from Thammasat University. Professor Ghosh discussed the subject of “Connectivities between India and Thailand: Historical Links to Contemporary Convergences”, while the two following papers focused upon regional cooperation mechanisms and India’s foreign policy more specifically.

[Video] Webster University Thailand, hosted an international seminar titled ‘Regional Dynamics in Asia: Case Studies from South and Southeast Asia’

Day two commenced with a presentation by Madhurima Chowdhury, Assistant Professor in the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies at Calcutta University on the various regional dimensions to education and the different perspectives in human rights syllabi in India and Thailand. The seminar continued with various panel discussions with Dr. Roland Lochli, Dr. Rajagopal Dhar Chakraborty and Dr. Rachael Rudolph present. A multitude of issues were discussed including strategic spheres of influence in the South China Sea, Asian immigration to the United States, and regional cooperation / coordination on drug control in the region. The two-day summit concluded with a roundtable to strategize the next steps in the collaboration between the two academic institutions.

Webster University Thailand recognizes the need for summits such as these to include not just academics and interested students, but also the wider academic community. In addition to encouraging greater collaboration amongst universities, the platform also encourages knowledge sharing across the region and potential greater engagement in regional processes both in South Asia and Southeast Asia. Former Ambassador of the United States of America to the Republic of Rwanda, Mrs. Margaret K. McMillion, also stressed the importance of “the participation of students who have the opportunity to hear new ideas and incorporate what they are learning in the classroom into a broader understanding of trends within the region.”

The summit was attended by a number of students from Webster Thailand’s Cha-Am/Hua Hin campus and Bangkok Academic Center that are currently pursuing International Relations degrees. Webster’s International Relations BA and MA programs both have a key focus on students developing a comprehensive understanding and critical awareness of global issues and relevant international relations challenges. As such, the summit provided a unique opportunity for students to further develop their thinking in this regard and hopefully apply it to their future work.