The Words of the Yong Family

Steps to Peace in Southern Thailand

Chung Sik Yong
October 7, 2012
UPF -- Thailand

Songkhla, Thailand -- Separatist violence has occurred for decades in the three southernmost provinces of Thailand, and the campaign escalated in January 2004. In addition to the legal and operational control mechanism and regional cooperation through intelligence information exchange, efforts such as cultural and religious approaches should be an area of focus, along with promoting good governance followed by a balanced national development.

UPF-Thailand and UPF chapters in Asia, under the supervision of Dr. Chung Sik Yong, Regional Chair of UPF-Asia, took a step forward to peace with an International Leadership Conference for Peace on the topic "Good Governance and Inter-religious Cooperation for Lasting Peace." The Conference was held October 5 -- 7 in Songkhla province, the gateway to the three southernmost provinces of Thailand near the border connecting to Malaysia.

The proceedings, held at the BP Samila Beach Hotel and Resort in Songkhla, brought together 350 participants from 21 nations including Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh religious leaders and scholars of religion, diplomats, and political and community leaders.

Together with UPF, the official co-hosts for the conference were UNESCO, the National Assembly of Thailand, King Prajadhipok's Institute of Parliament of Thailand, Southern Border Provinces Administration Center, Government of Songkhla, Songkhla Provincial Administrative Organization, and Songkhla Municipality. Moreover, the Royal Thai Police and the Internal Security Operations Command Region 4 of the government of Thailand sent security officers to help us with security of the Conference. The Conference also received financial support from private organizations such as T. Krungthai Industries Public., Ltd., and Wongphanit Suvarnabhumi Recycle Station.

Because the conference was international program of UPF-Asia since the demise of Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon, Founder of UPF, participants from 21 nations jointly began the conference with a minute of silence to commemorate Father Moon.

In the Opening Ceremony, religious leaders from five religions: Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and Sikhism, offered interfaith invocations, followed by welcoming remarks by Mr. Surapol Panusampol, Songkhla's Vice Governor, and Dr. Yong, and finally the opening remarks from Dr. Thomas G. Walsh, President of UPF International. Since the top leaders of UPF, Dr. Walsh and Dr. Yong were present, all participants could be warmly welcomed to the conference with the common spirit of UPF as one family.

Gen. Charan Kullavanijaya, President of the Assembly of Buddhist Organizations of Thailand, President of the Foundation of Think Tank of National Defense College and and Former Secretary-General of the Thailand National Security Council, was invited to give the keynote address. Gen. Charan spoke about Thai views on good governance which requires at least six points: 1) Legitimacy, 2) Transparency, 3) Participation, 4) Accountability, 5) Effectiveness, and 6) Righteousness. Education for clear understanding and good cooperation among people through religious virtues should be strengthened. That will help promote peace in all societies. "It is my belief that all religions teach virtues to people. The most important thing is then to promote clear knowledge of those religious virtues and their application," Gen. Charan said.

The conference was composed of five plenary sessions: 1) The Role of Leaders in Good Governance for Peace, 2) The Role of Inter-religious Cooperation in Peace Building, 3) The Situation in Southern Thailand: Problems and Solutions, 4) Innovative Approaches to Peace, and 5) How to Strengthen Families as Foundation for Peace. The core education about UPF was given by two excellent UPF lecturers: Dr. Robert Kittel, Director of Education, UPF-Asia, and Mrs. Ursula McLackland, Secretary General, UPF-Asia. Most of the participants, especially more than 200 Thai participants who were mainly Buddhists and Muslims, were moved and inspired by the UPF presentations. Since speakers in each session were the high-level figures in their fields: ministers, Members of Parliament, religious leaders, government officers, etc., especially Hon. Ek Nath Dhakal, President of UPF-Nepal who became the Minister of Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation, they also gave very interesting and useful presentations which attracted participants who filled the hall almost every session.

On the first day, there was a special program commemorating the first anniversary of the Inter-religious Peace Council in Thailand, with Rev. Kamol Thananopavarn, Deputy Secretary General of UPF-Thailand, as MC. Since under the leadership of Gen. Terdsak Marrome, President, UPF-Thailand, and Dr. Lek Thaveetermsakul, Secretary General, UPF-Thailand, UPF-Thailand together with representatives of prominent religious organizations representing the major religions in Thailand, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and Sikhism, had spent a year discussing and working together and finally joining hand to inaugurate the council on September 21, 2011 at the Conference Hall of the Government Complex in Cheangwattana, Bangkok with the direct support of the Minister of Culture, His Holiness the Supreme Patriarch of Buddhism of Thailand, Sheikhul Islam of Thailand, etc. Therefore, one year after the inauguration, Dr. Walsh, Dr. Yong, Gen. Maromme and all participants jointly celebrated it joyfully.

UPF's conference in Songkhla was the first international conference with the largest number of participants from 21 nations held in this region which talked about the problems and solutions of the three southernmost provinces of Thailand in peaceful ways. Mr. Peera Tantiseranee, Mayor of Songkhla, was inspired by this initiative and international cooperation of UPF. At the end of the first day of the conference, the Songkhla Municipality sponsored the welcoming banquet and presented gifts to all participants.

In the Closing Ceremony, there was a presentation of Ambassador for Peace certificates by Dr. Yong to prominent persons who have dedicated their lives for causes of peace. The Conference ended with closing remarks from Dr. Walsh.

Even though the conference in Sonkghla was very short, participants responded that they had good experiences. Through the conference, many Ambassadors for Peace look forward to cooperation to support the peace initiatives in the three southernmost provinces of Thailand. People expressed gratitude for the legacy of peace bequeathed by Rev. Moon, which has lit the way ut of the darkness of conflict to the brightness of peace. 

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