“Today should make a change and a turning of a page in our relations with the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT).” Stating this, Canadian Ambassador to Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, H.E. Ms. Donica Pottie described her maiden visit to AIT on 30 May 2017 as an opportunity to catch up with the past, and work towards creating a collaboration in the future.
Stressing that Canada has enjoyed a “long standing relationship with AIT” in the past, the Ambassador said she was keen to explore as to how the two could work together in the new global environment. “We are looking at areas to collaborate, and explore things we could do to support AIT,” she remarked. There is a global rethink on development assistance, as Canada is focussing on regional programs rather than bilateral programs, she added.
Welcoming the Ambassador, AIT President Prof. Worsak Kanok-Nukulchai spoke of the deep relations that AIT had enjoyed with Canada. Thanking the Ambassador for her encouraging remarks, Prof. Worsak informed the visting Canadian delegation that former AIT President Prof. Roger G. H. Downer (who assumed office in August 1996) joined AIT from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. Canadian support led to the establishment of the Human Settlements Development (HSD) Division at AIT in 1977, and the development of Habitech Technology in the mid 1980s, Prof. Worsak said He also mentioned that in 2015, support from Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) had helped 30 Afghan students to study water resources at AIT.
Prof. Worsak added that AIT is a neutral platform for international cooperation and that it serves as a global platform on global issues like climate change, urbanisation and disasters among others. “AIT is a truly independent and international institute hosted in Thailand,” the AIT President added.
The Ambassador was accompanied by Ms. Nitchawan Sriviboone, Trade Commissioner, and Ms. Pattana Vongratanavichit, Development Officer from the Embassy of Canada.
The Canadian delegation was also informed of various academic and research projects conducted at AIT with collaborative support from Canada. Emeritus Professor Karl Weber spoke about the historical context of Canada’s relationship with AIT. Prof. Kyoko Kusakabe, Dr. Philippe Doneys, Dr. Nophea Sasaki, and Dr. Vilas Nitivattananon — all from AIT’s School of Environment, Resources and Development (SERD) elaborated on their ongoing and recent research work.
A highlight of the Ambassador’s visit was an interaction with students from Afghanistan, Cambodia and Laos, where students informed the visiting dignitary about their life and experience at AIT.
A recipient of Canada’s DFATD scholarship informed everyone of how he was born in a refugee camp in Iran, since his family had to flee Afghanistan after the 1979 invasion. “As refugees, we had little rights and education was non-existent,” he told a stunned audience. He resumed education after his family returned to Afghanistan in 2001, and today, he was a proud recipient of a Canadian-funded ADB scholarship to study Water Resources Engineering at AIT. The Ambassador described the story as “moving” and “inspiring,” and admired the student for his fortitude and commitment. She also interacted with students from Cambodia and Laos in her capacity as Canada’s Ambassador to Cambodia and Laos.
At the AIT library, the Canadian Ambassador was guided by an AIT robot through the library corridor.
AIT was represented by Prof. Worsak, Vice President’s Prof. Sivanappan Kumar and Mr. Surendra Shrestha; Dean of SERD, Prof. Rajendra Kumar Shrestha; faculty members Prof. Karl Weber, Prof. Kyoko Kusakabe, Dr. Philippe Doneys, Dr. Nophea Sasaki, and Dr. Vilas Nitivattananon; Dr. Naveed Anwar, Executive Director, AIT Solutions’; Dr. Jonathan Shaw, Executive Director, AIT Extension; Mr. Sanjeev Jayasinghe, Director, Office of Advancement; Ms. Chalita Lertwinyu, Director, Office of Host Country Relations; Mr. Karma Rana, Institute Secretary; Ms. Colleen Curran of the Geoinformatics Center; Mr. Shawn Kelly, Director, Officer of External Relations (OEXR), and Ms. Wannapa Pliansri, Coordinator, OEXR.