The 2nd SSEASR conference

วันที่จัด :

24 พ.ค. 2007

วันที่สิ้นสุด :

27 พ.ค. 2007

เจ้าภาพร่วม :

Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Mahidol University, Mahamakut Buddhist University and Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist University

The 2nd International conference of the SSEASR (South and Southeast Asian Association for the Study of Culture and Religion) was hosted by the RILCA, Mahidol University during May 24- May 27, 2007 at the Salaya Campus. This conference was part of the international academic body of the IAHR under the CIPSH, UNESCO. The SSEASR Conference organized once in two years was one of the largest academic exercises undertaken by us at Mahidol University. This was co-hosted by Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Mahidol University, Mahamakut Buddhist University and Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist University. The Conference was organized to mark the the 225th Anniversary of the Foundation of the Chakri Dynasty and Ratanakosin Bangkok City, Diamond Jubilee of the Accession to the Throne of His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej, King of Thailand and the completion of the 60th Anniversary of the UNESCO. Since this was the 2550th Anniversary of Buddhism, we particularly invited scholars and papers dealing with Buddhism.

We were honoured as Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand graciously accepted our humble request to preside over the 2nd SSEASR Conference. In her inaugural speech, Her Royal Highness emphasized on the needs of the dialogue between various cultures and civilizations in general, and South and Southeast Asia in particular. Tracing the ageless cultural ties between the two, she lauded the SSEASR’s efforts to create an academic bridge between the regions, and complimented the RILCA, Mahidol University for organizing this event.

There was a keynote address by Prof. Anthony Reid, Director, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore. Professor Reid highlighted the dynamics and the dialectics of the process of syncretism in the Asian context through the several centuries wherewithal the warp and woof of adoption and adaptation have woven an abiding pattern of a fabric called religious pluralism. While emphasizing the lines of co-existence and “mutual acceptability”, Prof. Reid found it reachable as cutting across different social, cultural, linguistic and religious specialties, this region ushers in the mosaic what we call a “composite culture”.

While, we got blessed by HRH inaugurating the Special Exhibition on Ethnicity of the region, the post-coffee break hour saw the happening of the special symposium on Kingship and Religion organized to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee anniversary of His Majesty the King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s auspicious Accession to the Throne. It was presided over by Assist. Prof. Dr. Prapod Assavavirulhakarn, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok. Five speakers from different countries (India, Bhutan, Nepal, Thailand and Germany) spoke on the institution of kingship. As His Majesty is well known for equal treatment to the subjects of various faiths and religion, presentation highlighted the sense of togetherness and syncretism in their individual talk.

The exquisite feature of the SSEASR Conference at Mahidol was the plenary session every day which featured world figures and known academic authority on various subjects of the main theme of the Conference, “Syncretism in South and Southeast Asia: Adoption and Adaptation”. It included Prof. Yoneo Ishii (Japan) who spoke on Syncretic nature of Thai Buddhism. Bhikkhuni Dhammananda (Thailand) had a very thought provoking lecture on Women’s Role in preserving Religion and Culture. It drew profuse attention of the participants. Prof. Rosalind Hackett (USA) had a unique but highly relevant talk on Proselytization Revisited: Rights Talk, Free Markets, and Culture Wars and Prof. Richard Gombrich (Oxford, UK) enthralled the audience by a lecture on Syncretism or accretion? Theravada in practice.

The Conference ran fully packed for all four days. In the opinion of experts and observers who watched and attended the conference, the 2nd SSEASR Conference has the following distinguished and highly contributive factors:

  1. In the current age, the local governments pursue the policy of Look East (from South Asia to Southeast Asia) and that of Look West (from Southeast Asia to South Asia). It is especially visible in the case of India and Thailand. Thus it was a confluence of Look East Policy and the Look West Policy. The growing relation between the two regions was highly facilitated with such academic exercise as seen by us in the 2nd SSEASR Conference.
  2. It was probably the largest ever academic conference in Thailand in the field of humanities where the participants came from all the continents and over 50 countries.
  3. This was another first as there were over 120 Thai participants and over 63 academic papers by Thai scholars in a single conference.
  4. The Conference served the purpose of academic exchange and cooperation which was possible to start with, thanks to interactive and fruitful academic dialogue among the participating universities and academic institutions.
  5. For the first time, various South and Southeast Asian Embassies situated in Bangkok joined hands together for a common cause. On our request, the SAARC and ASEAN Food Festival was successfully organized and it was an instant hit among the conference participants.

As the SSEASR Conference was the first of its kind in this part of the world, the main theme cemented the relations between Thailand and the countries of the South and Southeast Asia. It has not only further strengthened the cultural relations of these countries but also proved how valuable to defuse any situation of crisis too.