Experience from Mekong Peace Journey (MPJ) 2012
by Kim Kotara, Cambodian
I start to apply for Mekong Peace Journey 2012 without really understanding what it is about. I haven’t had any background in peace, yet the only one thing that motivates me at that time is to learn new things. Luckily, I am selected among the five participants from Cambodia to join this program. Then my feeling somehow has changed, I start to become nervous and happy at the same time because many things happens at the very last minute. Anyway my real journey has started on the 5th of July on the bus from Phnom Penh to Bangkok and from Bangkok to Chiang Khong district, Chiang Rai province, Thailand. We spend around 24 hours to reach the destination. It is very long travelling which lead to an unforgettable moment. We do learn something by the traveling; we can observe people lifestyle and differentiate between Cambodia and Thailand which flight on air might not give this sense to me.
Our training starts on the 7th of July with many topics such as identity, nationalism, pluralism and conflict analysis. What really catches my attention during the in house training is “Border is a place of where nationalism meets pluralism,” is taught by Dr Jakkrit Sangkhaman. This sentence did change my mind to look at this world again. Before this training, I have thought border is just a place that people need to across if we want to go to another country. There is nothing good to look at in the area. However after hearing this term I can feel that border is a beautiful place to look at and learn. For example, Chiang Kong where the training conducted is a place where Laos and Thai people meet each other. As we are asked to absorb during the session, we can hear Thai song at the Laos size. It is strange to have one nation’s song at the other nations. Nevertheless, it is common because they are living in the border, so they are somehow influenced by the other culture. For instance, some people get married with different nations in this area. It does not mean that they forget about their country, but they accept the pluralism so that they can live together peacefully. It can reflect back to the society that if people have too much nationalism, they will not able to live in peace. Another important thing is the term mainstream and marginal groups lectured by Hannah El Silimy. Mainstream means a majority group while marginal is referred to the minority groups. From what I have learnt each person has both mainstream and marginal points, and we need to know about those. When we can know about our strong points, it does not mean to use our power over the marginal groups. By understanding and knowing our mainstream point is to help the other people that have weak points so that we can stay together. Another important point is the way to react to the conflict. We have power to choose to response or react. We can choose to react immediately when the conflict happens or we can decide to wait until we are able to deal with this conflict. You may say it is a common thing, yet I think that it is very special way to deal with conflict. People including me always react when the conflict happen and never thought about how to response the conflict. It is good if we can control ourselves when there is a conflict happened.
Besides in house training, all have a chance to see the real situation during the community visit. I can practice some items what I have learnt and experience new things such as way of life, culture, tradition and belief. We try to observe what is really going on by talking to people in the community especially the conflict and link it to the conflict analysis by using 3Ps: People, Problem and Process. For example, in Burma we can find the conflict between Burmese and the ethnic group. Ethnic groups are someway discriminated by the mainstreams which lead to a negative peace, which is the internal issue that people from outsider could not see easily. To elaborate it means that they are not fighting now, yet they can fight in any days that they would like to since these two main groups have their own military. It is a new knowledge that I get from trip to Burma at the same time I really concern about this country political situation in the future.
After three weeks training, Mekong Peace Journey 2012 gives me a picture of Mekong region countries. It looks like a collection of flowers that have different color, leaves, smell, height, places… It has its own beautiful ways that people cannot judge which one is the best among all. Like flowers, country has its own identity which other does not have at all. Some flowers are big while some are a little bit small which is look like the size of the Mekong country and how they play role in this region. Though many differences like flowers, we are still have a common thing together is living along the Mekong River. As what we have discussed, we share some common problems in the region that we need to take action together. We really need peace for all.
A Collection of flowers I took in everywhere I have been to Thailand, Laos and Myanmar, Give me a feeling of beauty inside them though I did not know some of its names!