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UCLA Center Hosts a Distinguished Alumnus, the Thai Ambassador
Ambassador Don Pramudwinai (center) walks with Center for Southeast Asian Studies Director Michael L. Ross (right) and Kantathi Suphamongkhon, a Burkle Center senior fellow and, like Pramudwinai, a UCLA poli-sci graduate. (Photos by Atticus Batacan)

UCLA Center Hosts a Distinguished Alumnus, the Thai Ambassador

His Excellency Don Pramudwinai addresses a luncheon with UCLA faculty and students involved in Thai studies.

Dr. Suphamongkhon greets the ambassador on his arrival to campus.

Dr. Suphamongkhon (right), who served as the 39th Foreign Minister of Thailand, greets the ambassador on his arrival to campus.

His Excellency Don Pramudwinai, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Thailand to the United States, on Monday, April 5, addressed an invitation-only luncheon at the Faculty Center, attended by students and faculty in Thai studies and Damrong Kraikruan, the consul general of Thailand in Los Angeles. The event was sponsored by the UCLA Center for Southeast Asian Studies and the International Institute.

Los Angeles is home to the largest Thai population outside of Thailand, roughly 100,000 people. In addition to bilateral ties, Pramudwinai stressed the importance to the United States of newly opened free trade zones between the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and four Asian powerhouses, China, Japan, India and South Korea. The separate treaties establishing ASEAN economic zones with China, India and Korea went into effect this year.

Don Pramudwinai

During the program, presentations were made by Dr. Supa Angkurawaranon, the UCLA Thai language instructor; Amy Ta, a recent UCLA alumna and graduate of the UCLA Summer Travel Study Program on the Environment in Thailand; and a number of students including Abigail Cooke (Geography), Andrew Chomchuensawat, President of the Thai Smakom student club, and Chad Caughell and Tulsi Kashyap, recently returned from the Education Abroad Program at Thammasat University in Bangkok, Thailand. All expressed enthusiasm for Thai Studies and hopes for continued collaboration between UCLA and the Royal Thai Government. Ambassador Pramudwinai was instrumental in winning government support for Thai language courses at UCLA last year.

Also present at the event were Professors Kantathi Suphamongkhon, Visiting Professor of Political Science and the 39th Foreign Minister of Thailand; Michael L. Ross, a UCLA political scientist and director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies; Robert Brown, Art History and South and Southeast Asia Curator at LACMA; Shoichi Iwasaki, Asian Languages and Cultures, and an expert on Thai linguistics; and Roger Detels (Epidemiology), who heads the Fogarty program training medical doctors from Asia in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, along with his student Dr. Saipin Chotivichien, a physician from Thailand who is a Fogarty Fellow.

With students and Consul General Kraikruan (right)

With students and Consul General Kraikruan (right)

At the luncheon, the ambassador reminisced about living in the same residence hall as basketball greats Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Bill Walton, and spending lots of time in Pauley Pavilion in UCLA’s basketball heyday. He earned both bachelor's and master's degrees in political science on campus in the early 1970s.

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