Cross-Border Mobility of Buddhist Monks and Laity in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region

 

Yesterday I attended the second day of the International Conference “Trans-Asian Mobilities and Encounters: Exchange, Commodification and Sustainability” at Chulalongkorn University here in Bangkok. I presented this paper:

Putthithanasombat, Phramaha Min, Petcharat Lovichakorntikul and John Walsh, “Cross-Border Mobility of Buddhist Monks and Laity in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region,” paper presented at Trans-Asian Mobilities and Encounters: Exchange, Commodification and Sustainability (Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Jan 23rd-24th, 2017).

Abstract:

Warfare and privations of various sorts in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) have taken a toll on the capacity of Buddhist monks and their supporters to provide sufficient spiritual assistance to the laity. One response to this has been to increase the mobility of monks across borders to add technical capacity to communities lacking it. This occurs in addition to and sometimes complementary to international religious pilgrimages in the GMS that have been facilitated by improvements in transportation infrastructure. When, where and how do such forms of travel take place and what are their effects? This paper uses an ethnographic approach to understanding the nature of monk and laity mobility in the research area and the issues arising from it. Monks and indeed spiritually aware laity must behave in an entirely ethical manner but, it is shown, they still have some scope to compromise with the constraints placed upon them according to the concept of everyday political behaviour – that is, choosing how to comply with restrictions in ways which are conversant with spiritual and practical goals. Their movements transform space temporarily into sacred space and they generate good karma which is distributed among followers. Around these activities, space can become commercial space as followers need to buy items and donate money to practice their beliefs.

Keywords: Greater Mekong Sub-Region, laity, monkhood, Theravadin Buddhism, travel

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The 9th International Conference on Management, Finance and Entrepreneurship and the 8th International Conference on Global Business Environment

The 9th International Conference on Management, Finance and Entrepreneurship and the 8th International Conference on Global Business Environment were held concurrently at Shinawatra University, Bangkok, Thailand on 23rd July, 2016 at the graduate campus at the BBD Building on Viphawadi-Rangsit Road. The event was successful and better attended than most previous conferences SIU has hosted. Nearly 50 academic papers were scheduled for presentation.
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Keynote speakers Hon. Prof. Dr. Charnvit Kotheeranurak and Dr. Somprasong Boonyachai (all photos by the author)

Two excellent keynote speeches helped to set the tone for the day. Hon. Prof. Dr. Charnvit Kotheeranurak spoke on the subject of Medicine 4.0, taking the theme of a new generation of medical treatments and conditions applying to the contemporary world and drew implications from that. Subsequently, Dr. Somprasong Boonyachai spoke on the subject of the digital economy, which is a subject on which he could speak authoritatively, given his extensive experience with AIS and now InTouch Holdings. The audience warmly appreciated both speakers. Ajarn Chanchai Bunchapattanasakda graciously agreed to open proceedings.
The remainder of the day was occupied by the technical sessions, in which academics from a number of different countries presented their research with the audience. Speakers represented, in addition to Thailand, Nepal, Myanmar, South Africa, Ghana, Germany, the UK and Indonesia, among others.

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Dr. Petcharat Lovichakorntikul and Dr. Sirirat Ngamsang help to fly the flag for SIU.

Three of our SIU students from Myanmar were able to attend, two of whom – Ms Khin Kyin Zin and Daw Sandi Win – were presenting academic work for the first time, which is always a somewhat daunting task.
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Ms Khin Kyin Zin, Mr. Soe Myint Than and Daw Sandi Win presented their research conducted at the Mandalay campus of SIU.

The range of topics presented was wide, ranging from work-like balance among women in positions of management to healthcare company development, communication, business ethics, stock market analysis and marketing. As ever, we endeavoured to maintain a harmonious, friendly atmosphere in which academics and students could exchange knowledge and ideas and learn about one another’s work.

I am grateful to all those who attended, including Dr. Ijaz who was representing our partner the International Foundation for Research and Development (ifrnd.org) and our own conference team, led by Aj Ratana Palasak and Dr. Wilaiporn Lao-Hakosol. As usual, staunch support was received from the library team, especially Aj. Boonta Wisswaapaisal and K Suntirach Lerdmanee. Thanks are also due to the IT and domestic teams.

John Walsh, Shinawatra University

Casino Resorts as Micro-Para-Statal Areas in the GMSR: Connectivity and Economic Development

Walsh, John and Petcharat Lovichakorntikul, “Casino Resorts as Micro-Para-Statal Areas in the GMSR: Connectivity and Economic Development,” paper presented at the international conference on Beyond the State’s Reach: Casino States as Enclaves (Phnom Penh, August, 2015).

Abstract:

Several types of para-statal areas exist in different parts of the Greater Mekong subregion (GMSR). These are areas in which different versions of the rule of law apply than in normal parts of the country. Para-statal areas can be formal in nature, as in the case of the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) that are used to help propel nations along the trajectory of the Factory Asia paradigm. Other para-statal areas are informal in nature and represent territories where the rule of law is partially or wholly-imposed by non-state actors. These range from areas in Myanmar where insurgent ethnic minority groups have established autonomous zones, to areas in Laos where Chinese capital has been used to create areas of cowboy capitalism, where the rule of law is enforced by the owners of capital, usually in collusion with representatives of the state, who benefit personally as a result. There are no examples of the latter form of para-statal area offering better workpace safety conditions or labour relations more generally. On the contrary, workers are generally subject to exploitative conditions with little guarantee of receiving due reward for their labour and no rights to collective bargaining or freedom of association. This is generally true of the casino resort micro-para-statal areas of the GMSR that are mostly located on the borders of Thailand with Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, as well as special resorts created for Chinese visitors to Vietnam. Casinos offer employment but few good jobs and a significant proportion of those jobs are associated with indecent work. Only croupier work is valued. Most jobs are low-paid, low-skilled service sector jobs with little security or career paths. They are also often associated with drug smuggling and usage, sex work of various categories and money laundering. This does not necessarily mean that the lives of workers in resorts are materially worse than all other workers in formal sector SEZs, as the recent protests by female Cambodian workers in the garment industry SEZs illustrates. However, these are conditions in which workers have historically sought to organize themselves in the name of security. This paper uses mostly secondary data sources to compare what is known of conditions in a range of different para-statal areas across the GMSR, with a particular focus on casino resorts. It is argued that connectivity with surrounding areas can be of considerable importance in determining the nature of conditions experienced by workers and that the different forms of connectivity exist in different combinations in the various para-statal area categories identified. This then has a direct impact on the willingness and ability of workers to provide remittances and to obtain competencies and experiences that can subsequently contribute to local economic and social development.

Keywords: casino resorts, Greater Mekong Subregion, para-statal areas, informal economy, security.

The Development of the Agro-Industrial Sector in Northern Myanmar: Constraints and Possibilities

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This is the fifth abstract for the forthcoming IFRD conference, this one co-authored with Dr. Petcharat Lovichakorntikul:

The Development of the Agro-Industrial Sector in Northern Myanmar: Constraints and Possibilities

Abstract

After the return to a form of democracy and the opening of the country, Myanmar has entered a new era of potential rapid economic development. Although there is the prospect of intensive manufacturing based on low labour cost competitiveness, one of the likely mainstays of economic development is in agro-industrial development. The northern division of the country, with its centre the historical capital of Mandalay, offers a great deal of scope for growth in this sector. Many crops grow well in this area and there might be high levels of animal husbandry. However, there are some problems with this approach, including the poor physical and business infrastructure, limited market development, lack of education and training for farmers and the continued prevalence of poverty. This paper explores the current extent of the agro-industrial sector in northern Myanmar and how it might progress in the future. The spread of the Asian Highway Network is one future development that offers optimism for the future and there is scope for more cross-border contract farming as a means of helping farmers move from subsistence farming to market-based production. Policy recommendations are made on the basis of the analysis.

Keywords: agro-industrial development; contract farming; economic development; infrastructure; Myanmar.

Petcharat Lovichakorntikul, School of Management, Shinawatra University

John Walsh, School of Management, Shinawatra University

Thitsar-Yazar Hospital: A Case Study of Mandalay’s Social and Economic Change

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Announcing: Walsh, John and Petcharat Lovichakorntikul, “Thitsar-Yazar Hospital: A Case Study of Mandalay’s Social and Economic Change,” The Myanmar Journal, Vol.2, No.1 (2015), pp.1-10, available at: http://www.komyra.com/bbs/board.php?bo_table=articles&wr_id=21.

Abstract: Located in Myanmar’s northern capital of Mandalay, Thitsar-Yazar hospital is a private sector healthcare provider competing in a newly-opening economy making a transition from a command closed economy to one that is open and treading a path to democracy. This paper investigates the development of the local health service at a time of significant economic change through conducting a case study of a privately-owned hospital in Mandalay, which is the second city of the country and located in its north. It is shown that the hospital is required to overcome various infrastructural and human resources issues in order to achieve its goals. As Mandalay and Myanmar more generally undergo economic development, perhaps at a rapid pace, the healthcare sector will also rapidly develop and it is a sector of the economy which could prove to be of great value in the long-term. *

Key words: economic development, healthcare, market development, Myanmar, private sector

 

Prospects and Challenges for Eco-Towns in Thailand

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Announcing: Walsh, John and Petcharat Lovichakorntikul, “Prospects and Challenges for Eco-Towns in Thailand,” paper presented at the International Conference on Sustainable Development and Environment Participation (Zhejiang University: June 20th-22nd, 2014).

Abstract:

Special economic zones (SEZs) link places of production and consumption through the various forms of connectivity: hard and soft infrastructure; virtual links and inter-personal and inter-organizational connections. SEZs exist outside the normal rule of law in that privileges exist for investors freeing them from certain obligations so as to encourage them to locate economic activities there. Yet SEZs can still share physical space with neighbouring communities that also confer additional responsibilities in terms of environmental impact. In the case of Map Ta Phut industrial estate in Thailand, for example, local communities provide labour for factories that are involved in heavy industries that produce goods not directly used in those local communities, even though they have been subject to negative environmental impacts for several decades. To try to harmonize two-way flows across the borders of SEZs in the country, the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand (IEAT) has announced a new concept, the eco-industrial town, which is intended to unite estate and community according to 22 identified characteristics and the five dimensions that balance economy, nature, physical estate environment, society and management. No satisfactory example of this concept currently exists and some critics have complained that the substantial marketing budget that has been deployed to promote the idea is mainly aimed at convincing people that they need no longer worry about contamination or industrial accident. At a time when the Thai government can scarcely afford more loss of investor confidence after the closure of industrial estates by the 2011 floods and the continuing political disturbances, it is evident that the eco-industrial town could be a significant asset in its developmental strategy. This raises the questions of which other exceptional spaces now offer or have offered partial examples of what might be achieved in Thailand, what an eco-industrial town might look like in practice and how the interactions between factories and communities and the links between them would be structured. This paper seeks to answer these questions by examining case studies of relevant examples of exceptional spaces in Thailand and beyond.

Thitsar-Yazar Hospital: A Case Study of Mandalay’s Economic and Social Change

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The full-text of this conference proceedings is now available online:

Walsh, John and Petcharat Lovichakorntikul, “Thitsar-Yazar Hospital: A Case Study of Mandalay’s Economic and Social Change,” paper presented at the National Conference on Management and Higher Education (Stamford University, Bangkok: May 30th, 2014), available at: http://journal.stamford.edu/index.php/ncmhe/article/view/206/54.

Abstract: Located in Myanmar‘s northern capital of Mandalay, Thitsar-Yazar hospital is a private sector healthcare provider competing in a newly-opening economy making a transition from a command closed economy to one that is open and treading a path to democracy. This is a path that cannot be pursued without acknowledging the shadows of the past, which are manifested in physical form by the competitive conditions of contemporary capitalism and the market conditions brought about as a result. It is found, therefore, that the ways in which the hospital must compete in the present are conditioned not just by current circumstances but by the events of the past. Those people involved in the case study exist in different levels of awareness of the nightmares of the past.