Thailand: ICRC and Thammasat University screen film, host discussion on IHL
The event focused on facilitating discussions on international humanitarian law (IHL) and raise awareness regarding this legal discipline among academics, students and the wider public. Over 50 people joined the event, in person and on Facebook Live.
Held at the university's campus in Bangkok, the event marked the second chapter of the International Law and Films collaborative project. The project's inaugural event in 2019 had featured the film Eye in the Sky, with discussions delving into IHL, international law, the use of force and military drone operations through the lens of cinema.
Based on Erich Maria Remarque's 1929 novel, All Quiet on the Western Front addresses the disillusionment of the public, the senselessness of war and its human cost. The protagonist, Paul Bäumer, a young German soldier on the Western Front in World War I, experiences death and loss on the front line which lead him to realize the humanitarian catastrophe that war creates. He then starts to see his enemies as people.
The panel of experts – Jirat Jitwarawong, ICRC's legal adviser in Bangkok, and distinguished Thai scholars, Assistant Professor Peera Charoenvattananukul from Thammasat University's Faculty of Political Science, Assistant Professor Sitthard Srikotr from Kasetsart University's Faculty of Social Sciences and Professor Thitirat Thipsamritkul from Thammasat University's Faculty of Law – explored the historical and legal issues raised by the film.
"The movie can lead us to useful reflections in the light of today's reality: how to prevent armed conflicts in the first place, but also how to prevent some of the humanitarian consequences of violence," said Jitwarawong. He highlighted that the movie is set in a period when parts of IHL already existed and provided a response to some of the humanitarian consequences, such as The Hague Convention of 1907 and the 1906 Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field.
However, much more was needed. Building on what was already in place, as well as subsequent experience, IHL has now dramatically developed to better respond to contemporary realities. Today, we have among other key treaties and rules, the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Additional Protocols of 1977 that provide detailed rules on the protection of both combatants and civilians. The movie raised awareness of the importance of humanity in armed conflicts and highlighted the existence of the rules of war. It also emphasized the importance of knowing them, implementing them and working towards their development in peacetime.
Encountering IHL through cinema and engaging in insightful discussions with experts was a valuable learning experience for the audience. It equipped them with a deeper understanding of contemporary realities and the enduring values of humanity, challenging everyone to contribute to a more humane world.