IN MEMORIAM Dr. Suwiali Premsrirat

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our Senior Adviser and Board Member Dr. Suwilai Premsrirat. Dr Suwilai was a devoted researcher of minority and endangered languages of Thailand and mainland South-East Asia. She was the founder of the Research Center for Documentation and Revitalization of Endangered Languages and Cultures at RILCA, Mahidol University in Bangkok.

Dr. Suwilai presented her work at two Linguapax Asia symposia, the first one at Gakushin University in 2014 when she introduced “Thailand’s Mahidol Model for language revitalization and maintenance of minority and endangered languages”. The second time was in 2018 at Tsukuba University when she talked on the topic of “Bilingualism and Bilingual Education: a pivotal point to the language loss or language revitalization”. After the symposium, we invited her to become a member on the Linguapax Asia board as a Senior Adviser. During Covid, she joined our Board online meetings. She also organized a series of short video messages from representatives of Tro, Bisu, Khamu and Urak Lawoc language communities of Thailand which we included in our video PRIDE, LOVE & COMMUNITY.

Linguapax Asia Board Members remembering Dr. Suwilai:

I met Dr. Suwilai for the first time in 2012 at the 13th IALL conference in Chang Mai, Thailand. Her presentation of Thailand’s Mahidol model made a strong impression on me. Two years later we invited Dr.
Suwilai to present the model at the next Linguapax Symposium on the theme of “Endangered Languages Networking”. During her stay in Tokyo, she resided at the Gakushin University dormitory near my house, so
we spent a lot of time together exploring Tokyo. She particularly enjoyed our visit to Ameyoko shopping street in Okachimachi where she purchased Japanese seaweed and pickles. She was very curious about the
unusual Japanese food ingredients.

During our explorations, she often had to stop to use her inhaler to help her breathe. Her health was fragile even then, but that never stopped her from exploring new places. Her boundless curiosity and life energy kept her going till the end. Thank you Dr. Suwilai for your friendship and for your invaluable contribution to Linguapax Asia. We will miss you very much.

Biba Jelisava Sethna, Director
Linguapax Asia

To Dr. Suwilai Premstrirat

I had several opportunities to meet Dr. Suwilai.
Particularly, the two occasions in Thailand in 2018 and 2019 were memorable.
She was always open-minded and willing to help others.

I learned from her that in Thailand, I should address the first name after ‘Dr’, not the family name. It is the same social culture addressing the first name rather than a family name like Okinawa; I found this made our rapport develop

When I visited Bangkok for my interview research, she invited me to talk to her colleagues about the endangered language in Japan at the university. The following year, I attended the conference, International Interdisciplinary Conference 2019, “On the Move: Indigenous Knowledge, Language and Culture, Tourism and Creative Economy in Asia and Beyond”, July 2 & 3 2019, organized by RILCA, Mahidol University, Thailand.

On both occasions, she showed me the Center of Documentation and Revitalization of Endangered Languages and Cultures in Mahidol University.
As a centre director, Dr. Suwilai was passionate about documenting endangered languages in Thailand. Her work and her students/colleagues
at the centre produced incredible learning resources: dictionaries, textbooks, word cards, language maps, etc, collaborating with
assistants from each area of endangered languages. Of course, she was an excellent scholar and published papers and book chapters.

Dr. Suwilai insisted I should bring back those dictionaries and task books created by the centre to follow their examples and apply the idea to revitalize the Ryukyuan languages in which I was working.

I will always remember your advice, Dr. Suwilai. It is sad to learn you are no longer with us here, but your work will stay with us all the time.

Sachiyo Fujita-Round

I was shocked and saddened to hear about Dr. Suwilai’s sudden passing. I had the pleasure to meet and discuss ideas with her at two Linguapax symposia in Japan; and most recently, on her own home ground at the Center for Documentation and Revitalization at Mahidol University, where she invited me to give two talks during my visit to Bangkok in 2019. It is unfortunate that we have lost her, but her work is certain to live on. She has been an inspiration to all of us at Linguapax-Japan, and to so many others involved in the fields of language maintenance and revitalization.

Fred Anderson
Emeritus Professor, Kansai University, Osaka

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