Thai Senator pleased to see alumni revival

Senator Pensak Howitz is excited with the coming revival of an active Thai-Danish Almuni. In fact, Mrs. Pensak Howitz has twice established associations like this, where Danes and Thai people could meet and develop personal or academic relations.
     “First time was in the 60’s when I was studying in Denmark and we founded a Thai Student Organization, in which I was very active” she recalls.
     “Later, my late husband Ambassador Frantz Howitz and I established the Thai-Danish Alumni Association in 1979 which was also quite active for many years, even after we left Thailand,” she adds.
     It pleases her that the Danish-Thai Chamber of Commerce is today keen on reviving and expanding the idea.
     “What Thailand and Denmark have built together over the years should continue. Especially new scholarships should be established – not only for Thais to study in Denmark. In current day Thailand, it could also be relevant to offer young Danes scholarships to study here, whether at our academic and military institutes,” she says.
     “We could teach these young people many things, which they could use to develop their country when they go back home.”
     Senator Pensak Howitz also sees the Alumni as a mechanism to ensure continuity of high-level ties between Denmark and Thailand on a multitude of levels and through a variety of channels and not only on the diplomatic level.
     Pensak’s own relationship with Denmark goes back more than forty years. In 1963 she was awarded a scholarship from the Thai Ministry of Education to study archeology in Denmark, at the University of Copenhagen. While she was studying in Denmark, she was asked to teach Thai studies at the university’s Southeast Asian Studies Institute. It was during this time that she founded the very successful Thai Student Organization
     To further her studies she then returned to Thailand, but later she was able to move back to Copenhagen where she spent a total of 14 years teaching among others Buddhism at the Southeast Asian Studies Institute. This was how she met and fell in love with Franz Howitz who was to become to the Danish Ambassador to Thailand. The year was 1972 and the couple moved to Thailand as the Ambassador from 1974 to 1980.
     “Our marriage was the first marriage to break the rule that Danish diplomats were not allowed to marry a citizen of the country where they were posted,” she recalls.
     Back in Thailand, Pensak Howizt revived her interest in underwater archaeology and was involved in several scientific research projects within this historical field. But challenges existed in the current days as well. Thailand was going through at a time of insurgency and communists were looking to establish power bases among the poor people in the countryside.
     It was about this time, Pensak Howitz established the Raindrop Foundation to help the underprivileged in the Northeast. Most other international organizations concentrated at that time their aid work in Bangkok, but she and her husband agreed that it was development on the grassroot level in the provinces especially along the borders to the neighbouring cpommunist countries of Laos and Cambodia, which was most needed.
     “Looking back, there is obviously a direct line from this initiative to my election to the Thai National Assembly as the Senator for my home province of Sakon Nakhon, but at that time this never entered my mind,” Pensak Howitz laughs.
     It was also during her years as a diplomat in Thailand that Pensak Howitz was instrumental in establishing the Thai-Danish Alumni Association. It was originally established under the Ministry of Agriculture and it held its first seminar on Thai-Danish relations in 1979, to commemorate 3 cycles of Thai-Danish relations.
     It used to be very active, but then she and her husband had to leave Thailand for diplomatic duty in Saudi Arabia. The chairman of the Alumni was then MR Chakrathong Thongyai while Pensak Howitz was the Vice Chairman. Later, when she was posted in Japan with her husband, MR Chakrathong Thongyai resigned and she became the Chairman herself.
     “To revive the Alumni under the Danish-Thai Chamber of Commerce is a good idea,” she says.
     “It will lead to a more modern association, “catching up to globalization,” you could say,” she ads.
     Asked if she is prepared to take an active role at the helm of the alumni in the new setting, she confirms that she is ready if she is called upon.
     “If the members want me to, I am certainly willing be help in whatever capacity is needed. I have a debt of gratitude towards Denmark and some outstanding Danes I have been fortunate enough to meet over the years,” she says.
     “They taught me the importance of being honest to yourself in whatever you are doing and that you have to be disciplined in what you are doing. I am proud of this and in some ways it also sets me somewhat apart from the other senator because I have my own way of working,” she adds.
     To be eligible to the Thai National Assembly, Pensak Howitz had to revert to her maiden name Pensak Chagsuchinda. This was beneficial also because her family’s name has deep roots in the north eastern province where here ancestors once had nobility. But with her special background it is quite natural, that her involvement in the International Affairs Committee of the Thai National Assembly is one of her dearest duties as a senator.

About Gregers Møller

Editor-in-Chief • ScandAsia Publishing Co., Ltd. • Bangkok, Thailand

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