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28 Oct, 2020

A 71st birthday tribute to the late Dr Surin Pitsuwan

Today would have been the 71st birthday of the late Dr Surin Pitsuwan, former ASEAN Secretary-General and Thai Foreign Minister. I am honoured to have been his friend and colleague over his distinguished career as one of Thailand’s finest politicians and technocrats. His many brilliant speeches and visionary activities, which I proudly covered, ranged from Thai political and economic conditions to the Thai-Muslim community, ASEAN and the Islamic world. A small compendium of my reports are reproduced below, all highly relevant in the context of current developments in Thailand and worldwide. His full biography can be found here.

Dr Surin Pitsuwan being interviewed at the World Islamic Economic Forum in Kuala Lumpur 2015.

Ex-ASEAN Secretary-General urges U.N. to adopt King Bhumibhol’s “Sufficiency Economy” as development model

Geneva/Paris July 2015 (TSDF media release): – Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, President of Future Innovative Thailand Institute (FIT), and a former ASEAN Secretary-General and Foreign Minister of Thailand, recently addressed audiences at UNCTAD Geneva and UNESCO Paris highlighting His Majesty King Bhumibhol’s Sufficiency Economy Philosophy (SEP) amidst Globalization and application of this Philosophy in Cultures and Values towards Sustainable Development.

UNCTAD Conference Shines Light on Alternative Paradigms

Thai Foreign Minister Dr Surin Pitsuwan …. said, “I am reminded of, and draw great inspiration from, the wisdom of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej who has spoken at length on the need to maintain a “sufficiency economy” as a means of promoting the welfare of the people at large. During a time when there was over-exuberant talk of Thailand becoming the next “tiger” of East Asia, His Majesty the King sought to bring the country to its senses by cautioning that it was not important whether or not Thailand became a tiger or a newly industrialised economy. The important thing, His Majesty said, was to have a “Sufficiency Economy” that was self-supporting, with enough for the people to live on. Such a concept also serves as an insurance against the volatility of the world economy and financial uncertainties. At least, the weak and the vulnerable will be protected.”

Whither Diversity? ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan on Tourism, Culture & Heritage

Tourism is an industry and a very important commercial activity for many countries and economies around the world, including in the ASEAN region. One reason for the discussion and debate on this subject, and the cause for concern, is because tourism is a growth industry that thrives and prospers but also has the potential to bring about negative changes in a country’s culture and national identity.

Sec-Gen Surin: ASEAN Identity, Cultural Integration As Important As Economics To Avoid Conflict

BANGKOK – In a frank and forthright SWOT analysis of the future of regional integration, ASEAN Secretary-General Dr Surin Pitsuwan has warned that the birth of the ASEAN Community will create both “winners and losers”, and the management of ethnic, religious and identity differences in one of the world’s most culturally diverse regions will be equally as important as creating economic opportunities. He called for this subject to be discussed in all industry forums on ASEAN integration, saying that such dialogue was critical for promoting mutual understanding and preventing conflict.

Unwelcome in Europe, U.S.? Welcome to Thailand, former Foreign Minister tells global Muslims

Bangkok – Muslims having problems going to Europe and the United States will find a more welcoming environment in Muslim-friendly Thailand, former Thai Foreign Minister Dr Surin Pitsuwan said last week.

Ex-ASEAN chief Surin Pitsuwan calls for “New Beginning” in Islamic world

Bangkok – Thailand’s best-known Muslim personality Dr Surin Pitsuwan has called on the global Islamic community to use the growing number of halal events to think well beyond food, products and services and chart a “new beginning” with a focus on solving many of the world’s looming problems.

Surin Pitsuwan to Civil Society: “Hold ASEAN to Account”

The age of accountability in ASEAN took a quantum leap forward over the last week with ASEAN civil society organisations serving notice to ASEAN political and business leaders that they can expect vigorous scrutiny of how they implement the lofty principles and commitments.

9 reasons why the Thailand Halal Assembly is NOT just another ordinary trade event

Bangkok – Thailand lies at the heart of ASEAN. Like an umbilical lifeline, the isthmus of Thailand-Malaysia links the Buddhist-majority northern half of ASEAN to the Muslim-majority southern half. This makes Thailand, a Buddhist majority country with the largest Muslim minority in ASEAN, a geographical bridgehead between two regions as well as a symbolic bond between religions and cultures. If it remains stable and peaceful, so will all of ASEAN.

Thai-Muslims Learn How “Halalness” can Benefit Them, Thailand, ASEAN and Islam

Bangkok – Although the term “halal” is widely assumed to denote just observance of Islamic dietary and lifestyle norms, the broader economic, geopolitical and socio-cultural benefits of the multi-billion dollar halal industry were very much in focus at the first Thailand Halal Assembly in Bangkok between 28-30 December 2014. Both Thai Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-ocha and former ASEAN Secretary-General Dr Surin Pitsuwan cited these benefits in their keynote speeches, and urged the foreign and local delegates to build inclusive, prosperous economies and societies based on “halal” practises.

Buddhist, Muslim leaders pinpoint root causes & solutions of inter-faith conflict

Bangkok – A central question that dominated the symposium on “Interfaith Dialogue and Peaceful Coexistence in Multicultural Societies” was how and why an increasingly globalised, inter-connected world is failing to live up to one of its primary projected objectives: More peaceful, harmonious, sustainable, inclusive societies and communities.

ASEAN Integration: Human Rights Groups Sound Warning

BANGKOK – In his speech at an Assumption University Forum in Bangkok on August 24, ASEAN secretary-general Dr Surin Pitsuwan warned that the process of ASEAN integration would create both winners and losers. He was referring primarily to the economic sector, with the losers being those who may not be able to take full advantage of the opportunities which he said would open up in a region that is set to boom with inbound investment.