Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Surin remembered as |‘man of the people’ |and a skilled diplomat

Dec 01. 2017
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HIS MAJESTY the King yesterday sent a gift of royal soil and a wreath for the funeral of Surin Pitsuwan, former foreign minister and secretary-general of Asean, as the international community recognised and remembered his achievement for Thailand and the region.

Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn Valayalaksana and Her Royal Highness Princess Somsavali also sent wreaths and condolence messages to his family.

Surin, 68, died of an acute heart attack on Thursday. As a Muslim, his funeral was held yesterday at Tha It Mosque in Nonthaburi province, attended by his family, associates and many key politicians notably from the Democrat Party.

Minister Attached to Prime Minister Office Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana represented the government at the funeral.

International messages of condolence and tributes to Surin’s achievements, values and personality poured in shortly after the news of his death broke on Thursday. 

Surin was a tireless champion of Thai people, an eloquent advocate for all of Southeast Asia, and a dear friend of the United States, said US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert.

In his many endeavours – as secretary-general of Asean, foreign minister of Thailand, journalist, legislator, educator, and humanitarian – he advanced international understanding and stood staunchly for democratic values, she said.

Diplomats in Thailand, the US, the UK, Sweden, Canada and Australia among other nations, also joined in the mourning. US Ambassador to Thailand Glyn Davies said in his statement that Surin was always a strong friend of the US. Davies recalled his visit to an Islamic school in Surin’s hometown, Nakhon Si Thammarat. “As Dr Surin took me around his school with great pride, the joy on students’ faces when he greeted them was moving and impressive,” the envoy said.

The Chinese Embassy said Surin had made a great contribution to the ties between Thailand and China as well as pushing forward relations between China and Asean. 

Canadian Ambassador Donica Pottie called Surin “a great man, a believer in multilateralism and in forging close ties within Asean”.

 British Ambassador Brian Davidson said he was “a statesman who still had much to give – a huge loss to Thailand and the region”. 

Vidar Helgesen, Norwegian Climate and Environment Minister wrote admiringly of Surin. He said in a tweet: “Devastated to learn about the untimely passing of Surin Pitsuwan. A brilliant mind, a fine man, a true friend.” 

Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai who paid homage to Surin prior to the funeral yesterday said he and many officials at the Foreign Ministry were shocked by his sudden passing. 

As the foreign minister and representative of Thailand and later as the Asean secretary-general, Surin made a great contribution to the country and the region, he said. “His passing teaches us a lesson to have balance between hard work and our health,” he said. 

Norachit Sinhaseni, Surin’s former chief of staff, said he considered his boss a “man of the people” as he always loved to talk and meet people as well as listen to their opinions.

Surin was a devout Muslim but it was he who initiated the “Royal Kathin” project to be offered to Buddhist temples in foreign countries. The initiative has continued to this day.

Surin placed high importance on Thailand’s relationship with other Asean countries, said Norachit. 

“Concerning the crisis in East Timor after separation from Indonesia in 1999, I remember when the UN asked Thailand and other countries to send peacekeeping troops to East Timor. Surin emphasised that the request had to get an endorsement from Indonesia first. Then Jakarta was informed and agreed. So, Thailand met the UN’s request.”

Former PM Chuan Leekpai said the global community called him “Prince Surin” for his dedication to the people. 

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