Siddhi Savetsila

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Siddhi Savetsila
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
11 February 1980 – 26 August 1990
Personal details
Born January 7, 1919
Died Bangkok, Thailand
Political party Social Action Party (1983–1990)
Military service
Allegiance Thailand
Service/branch Royal Thai Air Force
Rank RTAF-09.svg Air Chief Marshal
Battles/wars World War II

Siddhi Savetsila (Thai สิทธิ เศวตศิลา, rtgsSitthi Sawetsila, Thai pronunciation: [sìttʰìʔ sàʔwèːtsìʔlaː], born January 7, 1919) is a retired Thai air force officer and politician. After finishing his military career with the rank of air chief marshal, he served as the foreign minister of Thailand from 1980 to 1990. Since 1991, he has been a member of the Privy Council of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Life and career[edit]

Siddhi Savetsila was born in Bangkok. He comes from an aristocratic background. His father was a high-ranking official in the royal government. His paternal grandfather was Henry Alabaster who was the British consul in Siam during the reign of King Rama IV (Mongkut) and then served as an advisor to King Rama V (Chulalongkorn).[1] His mother was an offspring of the influential Bunnag family.[2]

Siddhi studied metallurgic engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), graduating with an S.B. degree in 1943. During the Second World War, he joined the Free Thai Movement (Seri Thai) which resisted against the de facto occupation of Thailand by Japanese forces. He collected data for the US foreign-intelligence agency OSS (predecessor of the CIA) and was temporarily detained by the Japanese.[3] Two of Siddhis sisters married US intelligence operatives, one was the wife of former OSS agent Willis Bird and one of CIA officer William Lair.[4] After the end of the war, he returned to the MIT and received his S.M. degree in 1947.

He then served in the Royal Thai Air Force and rose up to the rank of air chief marshal (phon akat ek). From 1975 to 1980 he served as secretary-general of the National Security Council. In this position he assisted Prime Minister Kriangsak Chomanan at the time of the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia 1978/79.

In 1980, Kriangsak appointed him minister of foreign affairs. He kept this position when Prem Tinsulanonda took over the premiership a few months later. As Thailand' representative in the United Nations (UN) and ASEAN, Siddhi advocated a tough line towards Vietnam which was occupying Cambodia after 1979. In 1983, Siddhi was elected member of parliament and in 1985 he took over the leadership of the Social Action Party (SAP) following the retirement of Kukrit Pramoj. The party did well in the 1986 election and Siddhi additionally became deputy prime minister for a short time. In August 1990 the new Prime Minister Chatichai Choonhavan dismissed Siddhi as he sought a more pragmatic relationship with the communist-ruled countries of Southeast Asia. Siddhis SAP was in great difficulties during the late 1980s and in September 1990, Siddhi gave up his chairmanship. One month later he completely retired from the parliament and the party, stating that he was tired of politics.[5] In 1991 King Bhumibol appointed him to his privy council.[6]

Siddhi holds honorary doctorate degrees from the University of the Philippines, the National University of Singapore and five universities in Thailand. He was decorated with the Order of Chula Chom Klao (first class), the Order of the White Elephant (special class) and the Order of the Crown of Thailand (special class), as well as foreign decorations from 14 countries.[6]

On May 8, 2000, he was among the five Free Thai veterans who were awarded the Agency Seal Medallion by CIA director George Tenet.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Derick Garnier, Henry Alabaster, 1836- 1884, AnglicanThai.org 
  2. ^ สายเจ้าคุณพระราชพันธุ์นวลชั้นที่ ๔ สายเจ้าพระยาสุรพันธพิสุทธิ์ (เทศ บุนนาค) ได้แก่, The Bunnag Lineage Club 
  3. ^ Robert O. Tilman (1987), Southeast Asia and the Enemy Beyond, Westview Press, p. 54 
  4. ^ Daniel Fineman (1997), A Special Relationship: The United States and Military Government in Thailand, 1947–1958, Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, p. 133, ISBN 0-8248-1818-0 
  5. ^ Michael Leifer (1996), Dictionary of the modern politics of South-East Asia, London: Routledge, p. 147, ISBN 0-415-13821-3 
  6. ^ a b H.E. Air Chief Marshal Siddhi Savetsila, Privy Councillor. Office of His Majesty's Principal Private Secretary.