Famed Buddhist scholar turned politician gives talk to expats’ club in Thailand

Published:  15 May at 6 PM
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Members of the popular Pattaya resort’s Expat Club were treated to a fascinating talk on Thailand’s political and cultural history as well as the country’s possible future.

Presented by Mano Laohavanich MD PhD, the speaker at last Sunday’s Expats’ Club meeting, the talk centred on the country’s political history from 1238 a.d. to the present day, including the recent election. He also offered his personal insight into the country’s direction in the future, touching on its effect on tourism, expat life and the Thai people themselves. Listeners were captivated as the lecturer revealed a timeline of Thailand’s history, much of which was totally unknown to his audience. Details included the country’s WWII experience with the Japanese army, its 20th and 21st century history of coup and political upheaval and the politicians involved in the frequent changes of government.

As regards Thailand’s possible future, topics covered included foreign relations, international trade, exchange rate upheavals, the possible new democratic system, a timeline for the future and even the effects of global warming and the country’s possible response to its threat. Questioners from the audience had a field day, covering topics such as the expected reduction of corruption due to the use of social media and expectations for a lower baht as the present rate is bad for tourism and imports but good for exports.

Dr Laohavanich said development plans are underway in order to reduce the usage of fossil fuels and their partial replacement by alternative energy sources, adding it won’t happen in the near future. A national disaster plan, he said, is also in the development stage, aimed at reducing the consequences of global warming. In answer to the obvious question of Thailand’s relationship with its retired expat community, he believes lawmakers are now aware the country needs long-stayers as well as tourists as both categories benefit the country in various ways. As regards international relationships, Thailand is facing a few challenges, especially with China and the USA, and needs to balance its international relationships more carefully, especially those concerning Russia and China, both of which he believes will improve.

The speaker's background is as fascinating as was his lecture, beginning with his graduating as a doctor from Chulalongkorn University. After graduation, he became a Buddhist monk, passing through the three grades of Buddhist monastic education. Subsequently, he studied at Oxford University, majoring in Sanskrit along with Buddhist and Pali literature before going to Harvard’s Divinity School and gaining a Masters in Theology in Buddhist Medical Ethics. He continued his doctorate at Hamburg University, working on Healing Meditation.

After disrobing in 2007, he wrote articles on Buddhism as well as a book and served as an advisor to the head of the Religions for Peace movement. He’s been active in the reform of Thailand’s monastic communities, supervised the development of several hospices, and is now the director of the Ghandi Institute and Vice-Dean of the College of Social Innovation at Rangsit University, He’s also the Secretary-General of Thailand’s Peoples’ Reform Party.
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