Former ASEAN chief Surin passes away at 68
FORMER Thai foreign minister and ASEAN secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan died of an acute heart attack on Thursday. He was 68.
Surin collapsed while preparing to speak at the Thailand Halal Assembly 2017 at Bitec in Bang Na on the outskirts of Bangkok. He was rushed to Ramkhamhaeng Hospital and later pronounced dead.
A gifted orator, Surin had been in constant demand and would make up to two or three public speeches a day.
Thailand enjoyed a high rating from the international community when he served as foreign minister in the Chuan Leekpai government from 1997-2001. During his tenure, Thailand promoted respect for human rights and democracy as the main pillars of its foreign policy.
Under his leadership, he placed Thailand firmly in the global scheme of things, connecting the country with all regions of the world to overcome the economic turmoil of the 1997 Asian financial crisis.
As ASEAN secretary-general, he oversaw implementation of ASEAN charter, which came into effect at the end of 2008. During his tenure, he helped raise the profile of ASEAN in both regional and international fora.
Surin was born on October 28, 1949, in Muang district, Nakhon Si Thammarat. He graduated from Thammasat University and earned a master’s degree in political science in 1972 from Claremont College in California. He then went on to earn a doctorate from Harvard University.
He entered politics in 1986 as a Democrat Party candidate and won a seat in parliament for his hometown in Nakhon Si Thammarat in every election from 1986 to 2005.
Surin was deputy foreign minister from 1992-95 before becoming foreign minister under prime minister Chuan Leekpai. He was the second Thai to become ASEAN secretarygeneral, in 2008, serving a five-year term in Jakarta for before rejoining the Democrat Party.
A former Bangkok Post columnist, Surin was a speaker at the Bangkok Post forum “ASEAN @ 50: In Retrospect” on November 16.
His remarks, punctuated with emphasis in his trademark deep voice, lauded cooperative organisations like ASEAN as a means of “creating a space for the region to talk to itself.” He asked, “How can we unleash the energy, the creativity, the power of 640 million people onto the platform of ASEAN?”
He also suggested that a new era – possibly one of less cooperation – may be emerging.
“It has been an age of multilateralism, talking to each other in a big group,” Surin said. But, he lamented, “the era of multilateralism is disappearing.”
“Be ourselves,” he said of ASEAN nations. “Be self-sufficient. Be helpful to each other before we wait for contributions from the outside.”
He was expected to run for Bangkok governor in the next election.
– The Myanmar Times/ AP