What our students had to say

The PAHSA Chiang Mai Short-Term Study Program took place from 17-27 September 2014 in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It offered students from Japan a great opportunity to learn about some of the critical issues that affect peace and human security in Asia. There were lectures and field trips, and also a two-day international conference, "An Agenda for Asia: Human Security, Conflict Management, Security Sector Reform and Local Democratization," organized by the Asian Political and International Studies Association (APISA). The conference brought together experts and specialists from other parts of Asia to Chiang Mai.

This is the story of the program as told by PAHSA students from Japanese universities



Today, the program kicked off with two lectures "Conflicts in Southern Thailand" by Dr. Paul Chambers and "Thailand toward ASEAN Community 2015" by Ms. Ajarn Benjamas Ninsuwan. In the first lecture, we learned about historical conflicts and their backgrounds. There was a special focus on political matters and the hand politics has played in conflicts.

We learned that in regards to the conflict in Thailand's Deep South, exactly how the unique religious elements came to bear on the troubles. Unlike the rest of Thailand that is predominately Buddhist, the Deep South is a Muslim region. We also learned about several of the approaches, varying from international to community level ones, to improve the situation of human security in the area. The lecture made it possible to understand complex issues and to imagine how some of the problems might be approached.

"Thailand is one of the founding members of ASEAN and plays a key role in the organization"

In the second lecture, we learned how ASEAN was established and of its objectives. ASEAN plays an important role in Southeast Asia and lights the way for member countries to drive forward in their development. Thailand is one of the founding members of ASEAN and plays a key role in the organization.

Overall, today's lectures were a great start to the program. It was fairly significant for us to be informed about some of the challenges faced in the region. As we move though the program, I'm sure that the other students, like myself, are totally motivated for some wonderful lectures ahead.



Today is the second day of the PAHSA program and the first day of the 8th APISA Congress. All the students attending the PAHSA short program in Chiang Mai are attending the two-day gathering.

APISA 8 is a huge event with over 30 discussion panels taking place over the two days. The aim of the congress is to contribute to scholarship about Asia, especially in regards to issues of identity, economics, health, education, security, peace, gender, minority rights and democracy.

With so many concurrent panels running over the day, the choice for PAHSA student about which sessions to attend was dazzling. In my case, I gravitated towards those sessions that looked at the thorny issue of the South China Sea.

The territorial conflict in the South China Sea has become one of Asia's most vulnerable flash points and a something of a mystery for those seeking a solution.

In the past, both ASEAN and China attempted to deal with the South China Sea dispute through the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), which called for "dialogue, confidence building and cooperative measures." Yet the DOC proved extremely difficult to implement. Recent events in the South China Sea suggest that things may get worse before they improve, with respect to the territorial and maritime resource disputes between China and various regional states.

Attending the Conflict Management panels at APISA 8 focussed my thoughts on the main stakeholders, those most closely involved, and helped me gain new insights as panel members delved deeper into the South China Sea issue. It was a fascinating day!



Today was the second and final day of the APISA 8 Annual Congress.

At the event there were 14 panels on topics ranging from Democratization, Human Security, Security Sector Reform (SSR), Environmental Politics and Conflict Management. Yet despite so many interesting presentations, participants were only able to attend three panels per day at the maximum since several panels ran concurrently.

Following the exciting first day, discussions among the PAHSA students over which sessions to attend became more and more heated. I selected two panels, "Democratization in Asia: Campaigning in Southeast Asia's Electoral Democracies, Bossism, Clientelism, and Media Appeals" and "Security Sector Reform in Asia: Comparisons and Contrasts" respectively.

In the latter session, one of OSIPP's recently graduated doctoral students, Dr Mathias Valdez Duffau, gave an impressive presentation on Security Sector Reform (SSR) in Timor-Leste in the period between 1999 and the 2006 crisis.

His presentation revealed that SSR, as a state-building operation under the UN Transitional Administration in Timor-Leste, was influenced by different models that had been adopted by its various donors. As a result, local ownership and inclusiveness in the SSR process was lacking and this contributed to the course of violent events that took place from 2002 and which culminated in the 2006 crisis.

We learned about the difficulty of SSR even under the UN's implementation and the session offered deep insight into the significance of strategic planning in the implementation of SSR, or the peace-building process, in accordance with institutional capacity and the needs of a country.

Additionally, personally as an OSIPP student, I found a great deal of encouragement to work harder on my studies by appreciating Dr Mathias Valdez Duffau's eminent work as well as the other fine presentations and discussions that took place at APISA 8.

I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the PAHSA Short Program.


"Talking with other students about the conference made me realize just how broad an array of topics were covered at APISA 8"


Already it's day four of the PAHSA short program in Chiang Mai. After the marvelous two-day APISA 8 Annual Congress, the fourth day is time to reflect.

Today we gathered for a round table discussion. It was a lively forum where we could pick apart some of the issues that were covered in the conference. We were able to regroup and share what we had learned, dissect the many presentations, and consider our own takes on the topics. This was very different from a typical university lecture; it was much more open and and the spirit of sharing and support was plain to see.

Listening to the other students talk about the presentations and discussion panels made me realize just how broad an array of topics were covered in the conference. This was fortuitous as it was soon clear that PAHSA students are interested in many research topics and areas of study. These range from politics, economics, and public health at one end of the spectrum, right though to international relations and security issues at the other. I enjoyed discussing these issues with my friends and learned a great deal. But in my case, the most interesting topics are those issues in regards to democracy.

Being Japanese, I've always known —and perhaps taken for granted— the democratic system in my homeland. I’ve never examined deeply what democracy means to me; perhaps it is because I’ve never had to fight for it. The same cannot be said in many places in the world. Some presentations at APISA 8 talked about the struggles for democratic rights that many still face in the world. Hearing of the efforts and the pain people endure striving for democratic rights, it refocused my mind and brought home the significance of democracy at a deeper level.

Tomorrow we will have our first field trip.



Today was a very full day on the PAHSA Chiang Mai Program. With the other students and professors, we made the five-hour long journey to Tak Province, one of the northern provinces (changwat) of Thailand.

Tak's western edge has a long boundary with the Kayin State of Myanmar, and given this, our visit to the province was to see a large immigration center and to learn about the situation and status of refugees in the area.

After the five-hour trip in a minibus, the first stop was the immigration center and we attended a class to find out about its duties, the area of responsibility and overall operation of the facility. While we didn't expert wisdom in the beginning, we were able to learn a lot of information quickly about the immigration system and the unique challenges in dealing with an influx of refugees and the large land border.

Later we went to the Mae Tao Clinic. It is a community hospital which has provided good quality healthcare to the Burmese refugee population. The tour of the clinic was fascinating and improved my preconceived notions of refugee medical care facilities.



Already it is day six of the PAHSA short program in Chiang Mai.
After journeying to Tak Province yesterday, we stayed in the area overnight and the next day the field trip continued with a visit to Koh Kha Sub-district municipality in Lampang Province before continuing on with our journey back to Chiang Mai.

At the municipality, we attended the lecture "The Role of Local Administration to Encourage Civil Society." The location of the lecture was quite apt as Koh Kha village strives to achieve a livable and inclusive society. To achieve the objective the municipality encourages local people to participate in its administration.

Locally, there are many opportunities were the community (including women, children and elderly people) can join forums and become real stakeholders in local life. These include social system forums, economic community forums, local history societies, community health system forums, and environmental and waste management meetings.

In addition to these gatherings, the municipality puts much value on transparency and accountability. The mayor said that to achieve these things, it is important to win the public's trust and have the participation of local people in the development of Koh Kha.

After the lecture, we visited a facility to convert garbage to fertilizer by using earthworms. The facility is managed by local people and proves how useful it is for local people to tackle environmental issues head-on. And with the facility being managed by the community, it promotes collaboration with the administration and local people.

After visiting Koh Kha I felt there were many points that Japanese local administrations might be able to take on board about community involvement, and constructing supportive communities in rural areas in Japan.


"The lecture was a good chance to find out if women have equal opportunities in politics, and if so, to gauge their specific involvement"


Today, we were back at Chiang Mai University after out field trip.We attended two lectures, "Women's Roles In Thai Politics" and "The Youth Policy Network in Southeast Asia: The Case of Myanmar."

In the first lecture we looked at the role of women in Thailand from the standpoint of social and culture beliefs, their demographics, and their education and socio-economic status. In particular, I was interested in participation in the political process by women. It was a good chance to find out whether women have an equal opportunity to take part in politics, and if so, to gauge their specific involvement. This information is a starting point in evaluating factors blocking the participation of women as voters, candidates or elected leaders.

In the second lecture, we learned that primary school enrolment ratio is almost 100%, but for secondary education it is not so high. Given this, it means it is necessary to improve overall education levels in order to expand the political involvement of young voters. In Myanmar, the Open Society Foundation, with its implementing partner IDEA, has been active in this area since 2006. The IDEA has helped to develop educational curriculums and coordinate a wide range of debating activities targeted at Myanmar's youth and the schools and clubs that they attend.

Today's lectures were the last for the program. We will all make our final presentations on the last day so we now have to prepare for those. I am feeling a little nervous, but it will be a good opportunity for summarizing our experiences and sharing ideas among the students. We only have three days left in Chang Mai and we all want them to be as profitable as possible.



The PAHSA Campus Asia program provides a great opportunity for students who are studying human security in Southeast Asia or who are interested in the subject. The short program is comprised of two main pillars, lectures and the field trips.

From the lectures we learned about some of the hot topics regarding "Human Security" and the hotspots which might impact people's lives in Southeast Asia. For instance, we attended lectures looking at the Burmese migrant worker issue and also the conflicts in the deep south of Thailand among others.

The field trip to the adjacent Tak province had two major destinations, the immigration center and the municipality office. I was more interested in the immigration center considering the substantial role it might play in the lives of Burmese migrant workers.

At the main immigration office, we received an insightful presentation about the situation of migrant workers (both legal and illegal migrants). After that we had a Q&A session that allowed us to ask questions. The lectures at Chiang Mai University offered us some in-depth knowledge about the issues so I was able to ask some technical questions about how they practiced policies on the ground, and this helped further my knowledge about the delicate situation of Burmese migrants. I am very glad to have had this sort of rare experience that allowed me to acquire first hand experience relating to the subject.

"The conference was also a stimulating experience just by listening to the intriguing questions posed by others."

In addition, the APISA 8 Congress was also a highlight of the Campus Asia program. I am really glad to have been able to meet the very diversified groups of scholars, young professionals, and postgraduate students, all from very different backgrounds. These thinkers shared one common interest; wellbeing, and peace and human security in Southeast Asia.

I learned a lot from the panels that I attended, particularly "Conflicts Management," "Democratization in Asia," and “Human Rights Violations in Myanmar.” The experience was not a passive one— I was not just listening to the lecturers but also engaging in the panels by thinking and connecting points with my own research topic. In this way I was able to get the most out of the conference. The conference was also a stimulating experience just by listening to the intriguing questions posed by others. It was a great place to be and it was good to be surrounded by others with interests in the same research topics as I.

Besides this, it is a rare chance to meet others students from Japan with similar interests, yet they brought different perspectives than mine and these too help me develop my analytical skills.

Finally, I am very much glad to be part of the Campus Asia program — it has been a wonderful mind-opening experience, one I heartily recommend.



This is the last day of the PAHSA Short Program in Chiang Mai and none of use can quite believe how quickly the time has gone. On this the last day of the program, students gave presentations on the themes of their choice. These were on subjects related to human security or peace building, some topics were the focus of individual students' long-term research.

When I prepared my presentation I tried to step away from myself a little as sometimes I feel my own viewpoint on issues can be a little too narrow. This is because I naturally see and understand things from medical grounds as this is my main nexus of study. Having now participated on the PAHSA program, this has been broadened and I understand how wider issues of peace and human security can often come into play. Through the program, I believe I have become more of a multifaceted thinker.

Moreover, I was able to get precious experience from other participants who were not, like I, grounded in medical matters, but also economics, politics, international relations and so on. This helped massively in understanding some of the critical issues affecting Southeast-Asia including Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia.

On our return to Japan we will be starting the fall semester at Nagasaki University. In the various courses I attend, I would like to apply what I have learned from this program and develop my understanding of complex issues further. And then when I go to Cambodia for my research next year, the foundations will be in place to get the most from my time there. I am certain that all the participants on this program would say something just as positive as this.

Finally, I would like to thank all the people involved, students, ajarns, and sensei alike, for making this program amazingly fruitful … thank you all very much indeed, kob kun krab!


With the PAHSA Short Program in Chiang Mai now complete, it is time for students to return to Japan.

Students enjoyed the time before their midnight flight and had a last dinner with Chiang Mai University students.

"Thank you all very much indeed, kob kun krab!"

And goodbye CMU, thanks for everything.

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17-27 SEPTEMBER 2014