By THE NATION
Shortly after an official announcement on the death of Virachai on Saturday, condolence messages poured in to the media and on social media.
Career diplomat Virachai, 58, had been stricken with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and passed away in the early hours of Saturday (US local time) at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.
“Ambassador Virachai is remembered by many as a stalwart friend of the United States, working tirelessly to further the US-Thai relationship, and advanced the prosperity and security of both our nations,” said US State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino.
Virachai had previously served as the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Thailand to the United Nations in New York where he did much to assert Thai leadership globally, said Palladino.
“He was an avid musician, bringing the beauty of His Late Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s musical compositions to many Americans,” he said in a statement. “Ambassador Virachai will be greatly missed. The United States will long remember his leadership and contributions to his country and the world,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Thai Embassy in Washington, where he was posted, issued a condolence statement to him and his family. “Throughout his 32 years of diplomatic service, Ambassador Virachai served Thailand with dedication and distinction. As an accomplished diplomat and expert in international law, he earned respect and admiration from the Thai people and his colleagues worldwide,” the embassy said. “Ambassador Virachai will always be n our hearts and memories,” the embassy said.
“It is with great sadness that we learned today of the passing of His Excellency Virachai Plasai,” Peter Haymond, charge d’affaires of the US Embassy in Bangkok, said in a statement. “On behalf of the American people, I offer our heartfelt condolences to his family, his friends and the people of Thailand.”
His colleagues at the Foreign Ministry offered their personal condolences to his family. Many recalled him as a musician, who impressed with his guitar playing not only at the ministry headquarters but where ever he was posted as an envoy.
Prior to his current appointment, Virachai was Thailand’s permanent representative to the United Nations since March 2015. Among his achievements while serving at the United Nations was his successful leadership of the Group of 77, the largest grouping of countries at the UN, as chairperson of the G-77 in 2016. His latest achievement was leading Thailand’s negotiations with the European Union to solve the problem of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishery, which helped lift the Kingdom from a yellow-card ranking, according to the Foreign Ministry statement.
The Preah Vihear temple case made Virachai popular amongst the public for his legal battle against Cambodia in 2011-2013 at the ICJ at the Hague when he was the ambassador to the Netherlands.