Pasuk Phongpaichit and Chris Baker, a couple in both life and in their esteemed scholarly work, on Thursday received the highest award granted by Fukuoka city, Japan.
Their Grand Prize also came with 5 million yen, or approximately Bt1.5 million.
The Thailand-based academics pair who have published several significant works on the modern Thai history, including “Thailand: Economy and Politics”, “Thailand’s Boom and Bust”, “A History of Thailand” and “Thaksin”.
Their work is notable for explaining the complex circumstances and forces that have challenged the country for at least the past quarter-century.
Their multidisciplinary and comprehensive analysis of the social changes in Thailand since 1980s were cited by the Jurors’ statement in explaining the decision to grant Phongpaichit and Baker the highest of the Fukuoka awards.
In her than- you speech, Pasuk said she was proud to be honoured with the remarkable prize.
“I am proud because this is a mark of recognition and especially proud of what this prize stands for,” she said.
“It celebrates the great diversity among people, it is dedicated to peace and it encourages cultural exchange and peace, harmony and justice. These are creations that have motivated our work.”
Baker, too, said he was very proud of this, especially as they were the first couple to win the prize.
“Somehow in our case one plus one equals more than two. We’ve made something out of our differences; female-male, Thai-English, East-West, economist-historian,” the scholar said.
“Today again with the world seeing another point of change and great uncertainty, the aspiration underlying this prize are more important than ever. Thank you, Fukuoka for creating this prize.”
The couple were the seventh winners from Thailand. Previous winners have included writer and former prime minister MR Kukrit Pramoj, historian Nidhi Eoseewong, painter Thawan Duchanee, historian Charnvit Kasetsiri and filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul.
The Fukuoka Prize has been granted every year since 1990 to recognise those who have made outstanding contributions to academia, arts and culture in Asia. The award also recognizes work that helps highlight the diversity and distinctiveness of Asian culture in an increasingly globalised world.
The ceremony was held at Fukuoka Symphony Hall, ACROS Fukuoka on Thursday. The city’s mayor hosted the ceremony, with participation by His Imperial Highness Prince Akishino and his wife Princess Akishino.
The ceremony also granted prizes recognising important academic work, along with arts and culture.. This year’s winners were Wang Ming from China and Kong Nay from Cambodia.
Ming won the Academic Prize, which came with a 3 million yen (about Bt900,000) money prize. Ming is recognised as a leader among Chinese academics in the fields of NGO studies and environmental governance.
The winner of the Arts and Cultural Prize, Kong Nay, is a survivor of Cambodia’s turbulent history. Despite his visual impairment, he has played a vital role in ensuring the survival of chapey music in the modern world. He was also acknowledged for actively engaging in diverse activities including working with the United Nations program supporting the human rights of disabled people.