The Royal Thai Embassy organized a seminar on “Thailand and Sri Lanka: Partnership for Sustainability” News & Activities

The Royal Thai Embassy organized a seminar on “Thailand and Sri Lanka: Partnership for Sustainability”

On 29 August 2019, the Royal Thai Embassy in Colombo, in collaboration with the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies (BCIS) and the Sri Lanka Thailand Society, organized a seminar titled “Thailand and Sri Lanka: Partnership for Sustainability” at BCIS, Colombo. The event was attended by about 100 participants, comprising of Buddhist monks, scholars, and participants interested . Ambassador Chulamanee Chartsuwan chaired and moderates the 2 panels of discussion. Key take away from the seminar are as follows:

Panel 1: Buddhist Diplomacy - Original Connection; looks into the symbiotic relationships between Thailand and Sri Lanka through historical exchange of Buddhism, which reflects give and take relationships between the two countries that existed long before Sri Lanka gained independence, and established diplomatic relationship with Thailand.

Ven. Bhikkhu P. Phocana, Lecturer of Buriram Buddhist College reflects upon the impact of Lankavamsa Buddhism in Southern Literatures in Thailand. He highlighted the fact that Thailand received Buddhism from Sri Lanka around 12th century, as a model for development at the time. Traces of Lanka Buddhism could be found in 3 key literatures, which described the arrival of the tooth relics from Lanka in Southern Thailand, and development that took place around Lanka style stupa, a story reminiscence to the one told in Mahavamsa. Today, many Buddhism practices in southern Thailand closely resembled the Sri Lankan counterpart, such as the robe pageant, which are known as the Kapruka Puja in Sri Lanka.

Mr. George I. H. Cooke, Deputy Director of BCIS, presented the other side of the exchange, highlighting key events where Thailand help contribute to Buddhism in Sri Lanka starting from the time of the Upasampada. He described the period when Sri Lanka suffered from the absence of monk, prompting the Nayaka King of Ceylon to officially request the King of Siam to send Buddhist monks to Sri Lanka. In total, 3 Buddhist embassies was sent between Siam to Ceylon during the year 1753-1759. Later, in the year 1862, King Mongkut of Siam sent a lithographic press to the Sri Paramananda temple in Galle, for publication of Buddhist books. Afterwards, King Chulalongkorn of Siam offered tooth relic which was discovered by the British in India.

Panel 2: Development – Future Connectivity; build upon the historical relationship in Buddhism and look into future relations of the 2 countries in the area of sustainable development though the sufficiency economy philosophy (SEP), and development lessons that Sri Lanka could learn from Thailand.

Mr. Banjong Amorncheevin, Deputy Director General, Thailand International Cooperation Agency (TICA) presents the key concept of SEP, which builds upon Buddhism, represents the middle path approach, and is compatible with the 7 principles of Suppuri Dhamma. He emphasizes that the 3 aspects of SEP, namely reasonableness, moderation and self-immunity, contributes to people centered development, which is the basis of TICA’s program in Sri Lanka. As an example, he presented the sustainable community development project that TICA has carried out in Sri Lanka since 2016, based on the SEP concept. At present, the project covers 3 villages in Kandy, Polonnaruwa, and Puttalam.

Dr Chanaka Talpahewa, Country Programme Manager, United Nations Human Settlement Programme presented development challenges that Sri Lanka is currently facing, and could benefit from looking at Thailand’s development experience. He highlighted challenges in the area of fiscal discipline, trade deficit and dependency, underemployment, skill mismatch, and good governance. He suggested that, with Sri Lanka elevated to the status of an upper middle income country by the World Bank in July 2019, the country could learn from development experiences of Thailand in order to avoid middle income trap. In particular, he described the Thailand 4.0 policy, which could be used as a model in the area of transition to technology and innovation based sectors, infrastructure investment and entrepreneurship development.