Consultations in Chiang Mai

After I have breakfast in a restaurant close to the guesthouse I call Chris. Chris is Swiss citizen and works as Asia Officer for the International Work Group on Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), an international NGO from Denmark. He picks me up, I rent a moto scooter and we ride to his office, which is also is home, a bit outside of town. It takes me some time to get used to driving on the left side of the road. Meanwhile some people have started already splashing water at us, which is quite refreshing given the overall fairly hot temperatures.

I meet Chris’ wife (unfortunately I forgot her name), who is an indigenous person from the Naga in Manipur, India. We discuss for some time. Later Jannie joins us, indigenous, too, Kadazan from Sabah in Malaysia. Jannie is Secretary General of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), a regional network of indigenous organizations. Their office is just on the other side of the road.

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From Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Today is Monday. I have a number of meetings in the ILO’s subregional office in the afternoon and fly to Chiang Mai in the evening. I start with breakfast in the hotel, prepare the meetings and pack my stuff. Then I take a taxi to the UN building in which the ILO office is located. Not exactly close to the hotel. My bags are checked carefully by security before I am allowed to enter. I spend the afternoon with fairly productive meetings, the content of which I do not wish to repeat here. In between I check my email and find a message from the Canadian embassy in Berlin saying that I was granted the research scholarship I applied for more than one year ago. This makes mee very happy and presumably I will travel in late 2005 or January 2006 to study under the supervision of my ‘guru’ Will Kymlicka at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

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Sightseeing in Bangkok: Wat Benchamabophit, Siam Center, Khao San Road

As agreed upon with the travel agency I meet the guide and the driver in the hotel lobby at 2 pm. The guide is about 30 years old and tells me that he is deputizing for his colleague who has fallen sick. I learn that he has studied design in Bangkok and works in his family’s company which produces clothes.

The guide suggests visiting Wat Benchamabophit, a temple which he considers the most beautiful in Bangkok and I agree. We reach the temple after about 30 minutes, during which he tells me all about his job but nothing about Bangkok and its sights. In addition, he suggests that I should buy a suit and some shirts in his shop which I kindly decline.

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From Berlin to Bangkok

My journey to Cambodia starts on April 10. I fly from Berlin to Frankfurt and from there to Bangkok. Not much happens during this trip that would be worth reporting. I tend to find long distance flights rather annoying and this one is no difference. In Frankfurt I find that my luggage is checked in all the way to Phnom Penh, while I want to stay in Thailand for one week where I will need my stuff. I talk to the people from the airline and they ensure me that they will make sure that I get my bags in Bangkok. I try to get a seat at the window but no such seat is available any more and I find myself between two mid aged men who appear to be sex tourists and spend most of the time sleeping and snoring.

We reach Bangkok very early in the morning of April 11 and like all the other travelers I wait for my bags at the luggage claim. Unlike them I wait in vain. So I talk to a number of airport staff. These people are very helpful and after about half an hour I get my bags. A person from a tourist agency approaches me on my way out. What he offers is a taxi to my hotel now together with a sightseeing tour in the afternoon with a private car and tour guide for about 30 Euro. The taxi to the hotel would cost me about 8 Euro anyway. Moreover, it is weekend and a guide seems to be a nice thing to have for just one day in a city like Bangkok. So he and his numerous colleagues manage to persuade me, not least by showing me certificates that appear to show that the services of this company are audited and recognized by the Thai government.

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New Assignment in Cambodia

After I worked for six months as an intern for the ILO’s Project to Promote ILO Policy on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples (PRO 169) in Geneva I am lucky enough to get a new assignment for the same project. For five weeks I will work as a consultant in Cambodia, with the objective to facilitate the establishment of an ILO technical cooperation project that aims at promoting the rights of indigenous peoples there.

The appeal of living in Geneva and working almost exclusively in front of a computer is completely exhausted for me and I am very happy to have the privilege of getting to work in the field again. And not just anywhere, but in Cambodia, the country which I fall in love with while working for the GTZ more than one year ago. I am also very satisfied with my assignment, which, while challenging, involves a wide range of activities that I like much better than anything I can do on a desk. Before I travel to Cambodia I have a few days off, which I use to visit my home in Potsdam, spending time with family and friends and for a short trip to the Baltic Sea.

On my way to Cambodia I will spend a week in Thailand for consultations with ILO staff in the sub-regional ILO office in Bangkok and with a number of international and regional NGOs working on the promotion of indigenous rights in Chiang Mai.