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Honoring the Memory of Alumnus Sander Thoenes (87F)

Saurav Jung Thapa is the recipient of the Sander Thoenes Division III Research Award at Hampshire College. This annual award honoring the memory of Hampshire alumnus Sander Thoenes (87F) goes to students working in journalism, international relations or peace studies. Preference is given to projects conforming to the spirit of Thoenes’ remarkable, if tragically brief, career as a foreign correspondent.

At the time of his death in 1999, killed by Indonesian militia while in East Timor reporting on its attempts to become independent, Thoenes was Jakarta correspondent for the Financial Times of London. His reporting also appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, U.S. News and World Report and other North American and European media.

Thoenes’ death drew international attention, and then-United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan released a statement saying, in part: “It is largely thanks to the courage and determination of men and women like Sander that crimes against humanity are brought to the attention of the world’s conscience.”

The Thoenes Award supports fieldwork and other research costs involved in completion of recipients’ Division III projects, the senior thesis required of all students for graduation from Hampshire College.

For his Division III independent study, Thapa will analyze the 25-year long civil war in Sri Lanka. He will investigate conflict over scarce local resources and religious differences as key elements in the war, and explore the Tamil Tigers secessionist group and its relations with the Sri Lankan government. Of particular concern in his research is the question of why repeated attempts to broker peace have failed.

Thapa is from Kathmandu, Nepal. His father, Gyan J. Thapa, and mother, Aruna R. Thapa, both work for the United Nations, in Jerusalem and Kathmandu, respectively.

Thapa said his parents’ work has been his inspiration: “The nature of the work my parents do with the United Nations, which works for world peace and justice, is what inspired me to study international relations and conflict resolution, with my interest in the conflict in Sri Lanka evolving from that,” he explained.

His research will be supervised by Michael Klare, Five College professor of peace and world security studies.

 

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