Surin Pitsuwan

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Surin Pitsuwan
สุรินทร์ พิศสุวรรณ
Surin Abdul Halim bin Ismail Pitsuwan
سورين عبدالحاليم بن اسماعيل ڤيتسووان

Surin Pitsuwan cropped.jpg
12th Secretary General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
In office
1 January 2008 – 31 December 2012
Preceded byOng Keng Yong
Succeeded byLe Luong Minh
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
14 November 1997 – 14 February 2001
Prime MinisterChuan Leekpai
Preceded byPrachuab Chaiyasan
Succeeded bySurakiart Sathirathai
Personal details
Born(1949-10-28)28 October 1949
Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand
Died30 November 2017(2017-11-30) (aged 68)
Bangkok, Thailand
Political partyDemocrat Party
Spouse(s)Alisa Pitsuwan
Alma materThammasat University
Claremont McKenna College
Harvard University (M.A., Ph.D.)[1]
Political Scientist
Military service
Branch/serviceVolunteer Defense Corps
Years of service1989-2017
RankVDC Lt.Col.[2]

Surin Pitsuwan (Thai: สุรินทร์ พิศสุวรรณ; Malay: Surin Abdul Halim bin Ismail Pitsuwan;[3][4] Yawi: سورين عبدالحاليم بن اسماعيل ڤيتسووان; 28 October 1949 – 30 November 2017) was a Thai politician. He was a Thai Malay from Nakhon Si Thammarat.[5][6]

Early years[edit]

Surin studied at Thammasat University, Thailand, where he received his BA in political science.[3] He graduated cum laude from Claremont Mens College, California, in political science in 1972. With the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, he went on to pursue his studies at Harvard University, receiving his MA in 1974. He spent one and a half years studying Arabic and doing research at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, from 1975 to 1977. From 1977 to 1980, he was a researcher for the Human Rights Studies Program, Thai Studies Institute, and the Ford Foundation at Thammasat University. He became a congressional fellow under the sponsorship of the American Political Science Association (APSA) from 1983-1984, working in the US capitol.[3] During this period he taught international relations at the American University in Washington, D.C.. He returned to Harvard to complete his PhD in 1982. His dissertation was entitled, Islam and Malay Nationalism.[7]

Political career[edit]

Surin Pitsuwan was elected member of parliament from Nakhon Si Thammarat for the first time in 1986 and became secretary to the Speaker of the House of Representatives the same year. In 1988, he was appointed assistant secretary to the Minister of Interior. From 1992 until 1995, he served as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs before becoming Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1997, serving in this capacity until 2001. Surin Pitsuwan was chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum from 1999 until 2000.

In addition to his political career, Surin taught at Thammasat University and wrote for two English daily newspapers in Bangkok between 1980 and 1992. He was academic assistant to the Dean of the Faculty of Political Science and later to the Vice Rector for Academic Affairs at Thammasat University from 1985 to 1986.

Surin at a press conference with Hillary Clinton

Snubbed for UN Secretary-General[edit]

Between 2004-2006, Surin was widely touted as a possible successor to Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General, by the international and Thai media, but he did not receive support from the Thai government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra because Surin was affiliated with the Democrat Party, the main Thai opposition party. The Thaksin government endorsed the candidacy of its own foreign minister, Surakiart Sathirathai, who ended up third choice behind Shashi Tharoor of India and Ban Ki-Moon of South Korea, the eventual winner. Following the 2006 military coup in Thailand, there was speculation that the military government would switch Thailand's candidate from Surakiart to Surin.[8]

ASEAN Secretary-General[edit]

On 18 June 2007, the Thai cabinet unanimously endorsed the recommendation of the Thai Foreign Ministry that Surin Pitsuwan be nominated as the Thai candidate for Secretary-General of ASEAN. He was confirmed by the ASEAN Foreign Ministers during their 40th annual meeting in Manila in July 2007 and succeeded Ong Keng Yong from Singapore on 1 January 2008.[9] His term of office was five years. The Economist magazine, commenting that most secretaries-general are "usually a senior regional official rewarded with the post as the crowning boondoggle in a career of not rocking the boat", states that Surin is different in that he seeks an activist role in member states.[10] Surin Pitsuwan was the first ASEAN Secretary-General with significant political experience.

On 1 January 2013, he handed over his post to Le Luong Minh, the next ASEAN Secretary-General. On 17 January he announced that he would be ready to take over Thailand's education ministry "if given the chance".[11]

Surin's tenure at ASEAN saw the rise of the regional organization into an important global player in international affairs. "He will be a hard act to follow", said Professor Amitav Acharya of the American University in Washington D.C. Under Surin's stewardship, Acharya said, ASEAN moved away from the principle of "non-interference in the internal affairs" of member states that had been used by some to deflect criticisms of their human rights records, and the grouping succeeded in setting up its own Human Rights Commission. The change in direction followed Surin's advocacy of a policy of "flexible engagement" towards Myanmar when he was Foreign Minister from 1997 through 2000. The policy called for increasing interactions with Myanmar leaders when they took steps towards reform, and building people-to-people contacts between nations. Prior to that, ASEAN had been criticized by some for its policy of "constructive engagement", which detractors said was simply a cover for business persons to ignore government repression. Acharya said that Surin would be remembered for guiding the grouping through challenging times, including the opening up of Myanmar, the United States entry into the East Asia Summit, and rising tensions over the South China Sea. "He was the most active, open and globalized ASEAN secretary-general ever", he said. An editorial in the Jakarta Post lauded Surin as the most effective of the 12 secretary-generals in the group's history.[12][13][14]


Since 2003, he was a member of the board of trustees for The Asia Foundation.[15]

Since October 2013, Surin served as on the board of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD), a private diplomacy organization whose mission is to prevent armed violence through mediation and dialogue.[16]

Surin was a member of the Commission on Human Security, a member of the Advisory Board of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, and a member of the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization.

Surin's eldest son, Fuadi Pitsuwan, announced the formation of the Surin Pitsuwan Foundation in 2019. The foundation will focus on three areas: education, diplomacy, and human security. The foundation will provide scholarships to ASEAN students to study abroad, within and without the region, to spur ASEAN integration and encourage academic excellence. The foundation will fund diplomacy programs in interfaith dialogue and conflict resolution to further ASEAN integration. On human security, the foundation will assist in disaster relief and respond to development needs that will help secure the future of ASEAN's citizens.[17]


Surin died on 30 November 2017 of heart failure. He collapsed while preparing to address the Thailand Halal Assembly 2017 in Bangkok. He was 68.[18]


Foreign honour[edit]

Academic rank[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c "IDB 1440H Vision Commission Members: H.E. Dr. Abdul Halim bin Ismail Surin Pitsuwan". Islamic Development Bank. Archived from the original on 5 July 2011. Retrieved 15 December 2017. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  4. ^ [Latar Belakang Dr Surin Pitsuwan][dead link]
  5. ^ Islamization and Dakwah in an Unlikely Place[dead link]
  6. ^ Can Surin lead Asean into a new era?[dead link]
  7. ^ Pongsudhirak, Thitinan (15 December 2017). "The tragedy of Thailand's Surin Pitsuwan" (Editorial). Bangkok Post. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  8. ^ Klein, Joseph (3 October 2006). "A "Moderate" Muslim for UN Secretary-General?". Front Page. Archived from the original on 24 January 2013. Retrieved 15 December 2017. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  9. ^ The Nation, Asean needs retooling to face competion [sic] from outside : Surin, June 19, 2007 Archived March 3, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "Forcing help on Myanmar". The Economist. Agence France Presse. 22 May 2008. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  11. ^ Maierbrugger, Arno (2013-01-18). "Pitsuwan Aims at Role in Thai Government". Investvine. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  12. ^ "Thailand's Surin Pitsuwan praised as term as ASEAN chief ends" Archived 2013-09-27 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "Thank you Khun Surin", The Jakarta Post, 28 December 2012
  14. ^ Parameswaran, Prashanth (19 December 2012). "Outgoing ASEAN Chief's Farewell Tour". The Diplomat. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  15. ^ "Company Overview of Asia Foundation". Bloomberg. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  16. ^ "Former Asean Secretary General joins the foundation board of HD". Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 16 March 2015. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  17. ^ "Surin Pitsuwan Foundation to promote education, diplomacy and human security". Thai PBS. 2019-01-03. Retrieved 2019-01-16.
  18. ^ "Surin Pitsuwan dies at 68". Bangkok Post. 2017-11-30. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Semakan Penerima Darjah Kebesaran, Bintang dan Pingat".
  21. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-08-08. Retrieved 2018-08-07. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  22. ^
  23. ^

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Ong Keng Yong
Secretaries General of ASEAN
Succeeded by
Lê Lương Minh