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Public Forum: Surin Pitsuwan and ASEAN: A Tribute - (Youtube and Summary Report)



Institute of Security and Internation Studies cooperate with The Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco

A Public Forum - Surin Pitsuwan and ASEAN: A Tribute

Tuesday, 24th July 2018 09.00-12.00
Room 105 Maha Chulalonrkon Building
Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University

Opening Remarks - Dr. Suchit Bunbongkarn, Chairperson, ISIS Thailand Board/ THAILAND

Speaker 1 - H.E. Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, Former Director of World Trade Organization/ THAILAND

Speaker 2 - H.E. MR. Sukhumbhand Paribatra, Former Governor of Bangkok/ THAILAND

Speaker 3 - Tan Sri Dr. Jemilah Mahmood, Under Secretary-General for Partnership at IFRC/ MALAYSIA

Speaker 4 - H.E. Mr. Abdellilah El Housni, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Moracco to Thailand/ Co-Host

Speaker 5 - H.E. Dr. Suriya Chindawongse, Director-General, Department of ASEAN Affairs/ THAILAND

Speaker 6 - H.E. Dr. AKP Mochtan, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN/ INDONESIA

Speaker 7 - Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, Former United Nation Under-Secretary-General (ESCAP)

Speaker 8 - H.E. Dr. Hassan Wirajuda, Former Foreign Minister/ INDONESIA

Speaker 9 - H.E. Mr. Alounkeo Kittikhoun, Minister Attached to the Prime Minister's Office/ LAO DPR

Speaker 10 - Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, Former Trade & Industry Minister/ MALAYSIA

Speaker 11 - H.E. U Myint Thu, Permanent Secretary and Spokeperson of Myanmar Ministry of Foreign Affairs/ MYANMAR

Speaker 12 - H.E. Ms. Delia D. Albert, Former Secretary of Foreign Affairs/ The PHILIPPINES

Speaker 13 - H.E. Mr. Ong Keng Yong, Former Secretary-General of ASEAN

Speaker 14 - Dr. Nguyen Vu Tung, President of Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam/ VIETNAM

Speaker 15 - Mr. Kavi Chongkittavorn, Senior Fellow of ISIS Thailand/ THAILAND

Speaker 16 - Mr. Housni Pitsuwan, Son of Dr. Surin Pitsuwan/ THAILAND


MC - Dr Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Director of ISIS Thailand/ THAILAND and Host



Summary Report:

Dr. Suchit Bunbongkarn

·        When Surin left the academic world in to the political one, I was rather disappointed because ‘scholar-turns-into-politician’ in the case of Thailand were likely to meet with failures. But, I was wrong. Surin was one among the very few from scholars, a very successful one in the political life. He proved himself a political leader with integrity, honesty, dedication, and farsightedness. He performed excellent both as an elected politician and the foreign minister.


·        In 2007, the Thai ministry of Foreign Affairs was in the process of nominating a candidate for the first of ASEAN Secretary-General succeeding H.E. Ong Keng Yong. There were searching for the most suitable candidate for Thailand to be submitted for the cabinet for approval. At that time, I was sitting on the national legislature, foreign relation committee as deputy chair. We were asked by the MFA to nominate one. “Dr. Surin was our first choice.” But, the argument against him was that, he might be overqualified as he was a former foreign minister. A career diplomat would be suitable enough, from the points of view of many people, both in the MFA and the outside. However, we decided to nominate Surin. We believed that if we want to reinvigorate the ASEAN secretariat, we need a person like him. We need a person who was pro-active in doing this position. And we have no regrets nominating him as a Secretary-General of ASEAN.


H.E. Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi

·        It is very difficult to describe Dr. Surin as Foreign Minister, humanitarian expert, great negotiator, or a great eloquent orator. But, I would like to describe him as a global diplomat. He can really bulldoze difficult situations as I have seen such as, different cabinet meetings, such as ASEAN meetings, international forums, APEC, UN-related commissions that Surin had been tasked with. When he became the Secretary-General of ASEAN, I saw him in Japan, Washington, Geneva, India but not in ASEAN. He called me from all over the world, being in so many places at one time until the very last year and it was so ironic and so sad, so depressing to see someone who would have meant to much when we had to celebrate the milestone of ASEAN to be passing on.


H.E. M.R. Sukhumbhand Paribatra

·        30 years of a friend, a big brother, scholar, academic colleagues, fellow MP, and Foreign Affairs boss reveal Surin’s consistency of belief and purpose. He was a patriot and committed to public service first as a young academic teaching at Thammasart University, as democrat party MP. But a pursuit of his country’s national interest will be fully effective through interfacing and cooperating with the outside world and that public service must involve responsibility beyond one’s own border, both territorial and religious. This is why from his early years until his very last days, he took interest and got himself involved in so many issues related to peace, prosperity, and justice.


Tan Sri Dr. Jemilah Mahmood

·        There are so many things to talk about Surin and all of you have wonderful stories about his diplomatic career. But let me tell you about my brother, Surin. One of the thing is that Surin is excellent at the leader. It is the ability to listen to everyone. He did not care if you are a state leader or someone, staff or a volunteer. He would listen to advice. I met him later in Bangkok and I sat down with him. After the disaster you see now how local organizations and local communities actually gathered to attend to the need of people. It is not the international community that came in first. Therefore, it is really important to invest in people, invest local communities and organizations. And, ASEAN has no history of a very strong civil society relationship at the time. Surin then said, well let’s create one.


H.E. Mr. Abdelilah El Housni

·        We are here to remember and to commemorate the life, the journey, the path of unique and exceptional man, Dr. Surin Pitsuwan. It has been almost a year since our friend left us. Dr. Surin might have departed from this Earth, but he will never truly leave, for he is still alive in our heart and mind. To us, he still lives on. Dr. Surin might have departed, but we have been blessed to share his life, his passion, his contribution, his achievement, and his stylistic work and his effort for prosperity and well-being for the people. Dr. Surin might have left us, but his true friendship, his humanitarian character and his deep piety have brought us all together today. The universal values and strikes for shall always stay with us and shall always be our guidance.


H.E. Dr. Suriya Chindawongse

·        How to sum up Dr. Surin, well, is very difficult, of course. To try to summarize this good and great man, but, perhaps, I would say that Dr. Surin is a man of many worlds but ultimately, a man of one world and that world is the world of humanity, which is served with devotion and passion. The last time I met him was last year, I was there with colleagues. We tried to bounce ideas about how we can take forward ASEAN as we assume the chairmanship next year. Dr. Surin said, never forget this socio-cultural community pillar because that is where the pillar that really brings people together. It is the pillar that brings people’s interest quite clearly. The two episodes, my first and last meeting with him, reflects the breadth and depth of the vision that he had for Thailand, for ASEAN, and for the world.


H.E. Dr. AKP Mochtan

·        We had the spokesperson to tell the world about ASEAN, and Dr. Surin was not only a spokesperson, but an icon. When we talk about the Secretary-Generalship of Dr. Surin. It is not a stage for himself, a stage for Thailand, but it was a stage for ASEAN including for the ASEAN community. We need to engage the people, we need to get connected and rooted, and that is actually one of the legacies, one of the great that Dr. Surin has shared with the secretariat staff. The sense of pride in Dr. Surin is also felt the same by ASEAN secretariat staff, not only by Thais.


Dr. Noeleen Heyzer

·        Today, we celebrate a life of vision, generosity, humanity and courage. Dr. Surin had a gift of always remaining as humble as he was wise, of touching the heart of everyone he met. He was so fearless in breaking boundaries, in pushing that there is nothing called impossible for him. The Nargis situation revealed Dr. Surin as a visionary and great humanitarian diplomat. He knew how to capture the opportunity, worked with political leaders and shifted the system to bring ASEAN closer to the people. For Dr. Surin, the massive cyclone was a defining experience, what he called ASEAN baptism by cyclone. It was the first time that ASEAN placed the leading role in the humanitarian response. And it was a great success. It was also the first time that ASEAN and the UN worked together on disaster management. A new humanitarian partnership that delivered for the effective of people.


·        Dr. Surin believes in FUNDAMENTAL DIGNITY and equality of every person, child. And this became so clear to me as we walked together at the devasted land, villages destroyed by the cyclone. Dr. Surin took time to converse each of victims from Nagris.


H.E. Dr. Hassan Wirajuda

·        I know Dr. Surin not only had a principal position regarding to humanitarian crisis, but as a man of action, he was very keen to join actions to find a solution to this humanitarian problem. Life begins at 40, so did ASEAN. It was there, at the difficult process of transformation where Dr. Surin was the head of ASEAN. ASEAN was fortunate to have a Secretary-General of his quality: good wits of a scholar, a politician, and skillful diplomat. ASEAN as a weak secretariat, small numbers of professionals, low budgets, in the process of implementation of ASEAN community, political and security, economic, social and culture. ASEAN in 2009-2010 began to draft its blueprints, plans of action and programs. So, ASEAN needs a skillful Secretary-General for its member states as well as the ASEAN dialogue partner to gain supports including financial support. And I think Dr. Surin performed this difficult task successfully. It was Dr. Surin as a Secretary-General that the implementation of ASEAN-led mechanism went very well. The success of Nargis cyclone operation and encouraging Myanmar to engage ASEAN more intensively but also confidently engaging to the community.


H.E. Mr. Alounkeo Kittikhoun

·        Dr. Surin Pitsuwan served as Secretary-General of ASEAN from 2008-2012, which was an important period when ASEAN had just adopted the milestone ASEAN charter and ASEAN Human Rights Declaration that provide new status and institutional framework for ASEAN to pursue its community goals. Surin Pitsuwan contributed significantly to ASEAN’s progress in community building and integration effort as well as taking ASEAN’s external relation forward. His valuable dedication and legacy, therefore, would be forever and remembered by the ASEAN people.



Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz

·        I do not remember exactly when I first met Surin, but it must have been one of those occasions when he was still an academician. I remember well, he handed his hand out and said, I’m Surin, everybody knew because I’m a dinosaur in political arena and in academia too. I said hi, I’m Rafidah, and he got confused because so many people in Malaysia is named Rafidah. I asked Surin How old are you? And he gave me his age and I said I’m well ahead of you by 6 years. He actually said ‘by the way I am Halem.’ I’m Muslim. That’s better. I will call you kaka. This is very special. It means they respect you in age.


·        Surin was the person who could see the way forward for ASEAN. Most of all discussions were some corridors, somewhere. But he always talked about ‘how do we do with ASEAN?, kaka’, and so on and so forth. Surin was a person who was not only forward-looking, but he had a leadership that is future proved, which means that it transcends time and borders. He is Thai, of course, but he also said he is a Muslim. Surin was proud to be a Thai at the same time had to tell the world that he was a Muslim-Thai.


H.E. U Myint Thu

·        We find merit in our gathering today Surin Pitsuwan and ASEAN: a tribute, which is most timely and particularly relevant as we cherish our leaders and thinkers who have played instrumental roles in the formation of ASEAN. I first met Dr. Surin when he was the minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand back in late 1990s. I was also fortunate to work closely with him during his tenure as the Secretary-General of ASEAN. He was a great statesman with wisdom, wide knowledge and wholehearted passion for ASEAN. When he passed away, Thailand lost a great statesman. Our region also lost a great charismatic diplomat, most articulate speaker and novel statesman. We will always remember him as a highly respective diplomat, accomplished statesman, and one of the most eloquent speakers from our region. He shall also be remembered for his tireless effort in advancing peace and stability and prosperity in our region. On the personal note, I wish to pay our tribute to Dr. Surin, who played an important role in the ASEAN engagement with Myanmar. As the foreign minister of Thailand and the chair of the ASEAN in the late 1990s, he introduced constructive engagement, which contributed to the ASEAN positive and interactive approaches towards Myanmar. Dr. Surin also deeply involved in the humanitarian assistance. We will remember Dr. Surin as an architect of ASEAN and the statesman for his tireless effort in advancing peace, stability and prosperity in our region and his passion for articulating ASEAN’s vision to benefit all our citizen. He will also be remembered as the part of the evolving history of ASEAN and the establishment of the people-oriented and people-centered community.


H.E. Ms. Delia D. Albert

·        Dear Surin Pitsuwan, today your friends, colleagues, admirers gathered here in Chulalongkorn University to celebrate your life, especially those years you spent with each one of us. I’m particularly honored to have been invited to share with the grieving audience what you meant to us and what you have done in the many roles you played in your country as a political leader, to our region as the 12th Secretary-General of ASEAN, and to your deep humanity for leading ASEAN engagement to assist people, victims of typhoon Nargis.


H.E. Mr. Ong Keng Yong

·        I came to this event intending to demonstrate to you 3 good things about Surin. The first thing is that always regard Surin as a humanitarian and peacekeeper, wherever he goes, he would like to demonstrate that he cares as well as tries to make peace and maintain peace. One time I spoke to him, I say, “what keeps you going?” And he says what else to do? We have been given a job, as a Secretary-General, as a human being, we do what we can. Second, his brilliance came about because he was always thinking on his feet. He was very imaginative. He tried to maximize whatever situation he had been put into. Last thing, at the end of the day, everything set and done, Surin was a good Thai man. He was always looking for the opportunity to do more for Thailand.


Dr. Nguyen Vu Tung

·        I think I’m the only person that does not have any personal relationship with Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, but it does not mean that he is not the source of inspiration and admiration for me, personally, and for our colleagues back at DAV (Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam)     and MoFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) of Vietnam. Dr. Surin had served at the time of 1992-2001 as the deputy foreign minister and then foreign minister, and we instantly understood that he is the ASEAN men. Under his leadership at MoFA, Thailand’s enrichment within ASEAN and Thailand’s enrichment with rest of the world were elevated to the higher levels. But from the Vietnamese perspective, I would like to highlight the formative years for Vietnam and for the DAV. The years between 1992–1995 are special at least in two senses. First one is that it was the time when Vietnam was making the decision to join ASEAN. At the time, the interaction within Vietnamese decision makers and the counter parties in ASEAN. We know now the interaction between Vietnam’s leaders and Thai leaders in the early 1990s was important as Dr. Suriya shared with us about the intention and dream of Dr. Surin Pitsuwan to have Vietnam as a member of ASEAN.


Mr. Kavi Chongkittavorn

·        It is not the curse to be the last person to speak. Actually, it is a blessing because I speak on behalf of a friend, a journalist and Surin as a newsmaker, and most important, as an informed source who happened to be in a meeting who was not authorized to say anything about ASEAN because it happened to be ASEAN Secretary-General. I knew him as a journalist because we started together in 1994. He was the one who introduce the word ‘fulcrum.’ When I wrote about ASEAN, I would write that ASEAN is a platform. “Mr. Kavi, do not use the word ‘platform,’ use fulcrum. Do not use this word, use the word ‘catalyze.’ And also the last word he also introduced, “Kavi, use the word ‘ASEAN as a driving force.’” Secondly, I followed him as a foreign minister not only of Thailand, but of ASEAN de facto because he was very contentious as a Secretary-General of ASEAN that he must speak on behalf ASEAN and protect ASEAN’s interest. Lastly, I know Surin as a travelling companion. Surin always sat on A2, not because he wanted to rush out, not because he is in the first class, but because he wanted to take then newspaper and magazines so that he could give them to the village heads in Nakhon Sri Thammarat.


Mr. Housni Pitsuwan

·        To others, Surin Pitsuwan is perhaps a colleague, a friend or a mentor. To me, I see him as a father who really loves and cares for his three sons, his wife and his family. The sudden loss of my father has made me stronger as a person. I am now prepared to take responsibility for my family’s matter and be with my mother as my two brothers are doing Ph.D. abroad. Despite all the great speeches today telling my father’s contribution to the region, I came to realize that his greatest legacy is not just his social, political and humanitarian work, but they also include the fact that he had great his three sons together with our mother to understand our privilege and sought to pay it forward to those who are less fortunate than us. He has instituted within us and other children ideas and values similar to his own. We are committed to spend the rest of our life, proving that our father has raised us right.