Prime minister

May 14, 2005

It’s commencement weekend at UNC-CH, and Anand Panyarachun, the former prime minister of Thailand, is in town to receive an honorary degree. The University Center for International Studies and the Kenan Institute organized a roundtable discussion and luncheon with the esteemed Mr. Panyarachun, and I got to attend this. My interest was in hearing him talk about sparking his country’s fight against HIV:

Anand was the first Asian leader to recognize HIV/AIDS as a major development challenge and to mount a nation-wide program in 1991 to combat the epidemic in Thailand. As a result, Thailand was able to significantly reduce the number of HIV infections due to the effective HIV prevention program instituted by the Anand Government.

but I learned more about the history of Thailand – how colonial powers put a Malay Muslim kingdom inside the borders of Thailand, and how that province is the subject of reconciliation efforts that might give autonomy to the region – and the treaties of Westphalia and the world’s response to the “America First” attitude of the Bush Administration. In short, Mr. Panyarachun held forth for nearly two hours, and I felt honored to be able to hear him share his vast knowledge.

“Your perspective of China is all mixed up. You’re totally confused,” he said. “Europe had its days in the 17th and 18th centuries. The U.S. had its days in the 20th Century. The next 95 years will be the days of China, Japan, India.” (Something Thomas Friedman has been saying of late.)

Anton Zuiker

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