ASEAN Plus Group Mourns the Death of Surin Pitsuwan, Former Secretary-General of ASEAN

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

ASEAN Plus Group mourns the death of Surin Pitsuwan, best-known for his contributions as the former secretary-general of ASEAN.

Dr. Surin began his political career as a Member of Parliament in Thailand in 1986, eventually serving as the deputy foreign minister from 1992 – 1996 and as the foreign minister from 1997 – 2001. He was paramount in restoring law and order in the East Timor crisis in 1999 whilst Thailand was chair of ASEAN.

Subsequently as secretary general of ASEAN from 2008 to 2012, Dr. Surin steered the group during the rise of the regional organization into an important player globally. He helmed the group 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. In addition, he successfully set up an ASEAN Human Rights Commission and moved the group away from the ‘non-interference in the internal affairs’ of member states which was sometimes used to deflect human rights violations. It was also known that Dr. Surin was short-listed as a candidate for the position of secretary-general of the United Nations.

After the end of his tenure at ASEAN, Dr. Surin remained active in the regional diplomatic circles and returned to Thailand to rejoin the Democratic party. He died of a heart attack while preparing to speak at the Thailand Halal Assembly on November 30 at the age of 68.