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Surin to formally take up ASEAN Secretary-General post

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ASEAN welcomes Thailand’s former foreign minister Surin Pitsuwan as the new Secretary-General on 7 January. Should it be implemented, the association’s pledge to ratify the ASEAN Charter last year will boost the role of the Secretary General. Surin has five years in office to oversee the progress of the much hope for ASEAN Charter.
(Bangkok, 23 January 2008) Thailand’s former foreign minister Surin Pitsuwan is now ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Secretary-General. His appointment took place officially on 7 January in the capital city, witnessed by about 150 senior ASEAN officials and diplomats. His term in office based in Jakarta, Indonesia is for five years.

Surin, former member of the Democrat Party, Thailand’s oldest political party, is the second Thai citizen to take up the ASEAN secretary-general post after Pan Wannamethee, currently secretary-general of the Thai Red Cross and former senior Foreign Ministry officer. Pitsuwan is, however, the first Thai politician to hold the ASEAN secretary-general post.

In his maiden speech as ASEAN’s Secretary General, Surin mentioned about the association’s pledge in 2007 to ratify the ASEAN Charter. He said that this should further boost the role of the ASEAN Secretary-General, after its implementation.

He added that all the member nations should fashion a new approach, conceive a new strategy and recalibrate the old ways to accomplish their higher goal of a global and competitive ASEAN, according to a report by Xinhua on 7 January.

“The organisation has a blueprint for the future in the form of the ASEAN Charter. It is meant to help us consolidate our core, improve our coordination, accelerate our speed, in the face of new challenges and stiffer competition", he further said.

He also stressed regional-coalition members must be willing to contribute more financially to materialise schemes their leaders envisaged, both in the Vientiane Plan of Action and the new charter (The Nation, 7 January 2008).

Surin was Nakhon Si Thammarat Member of Parliament and Secretary to the Speaker of the House of Representatives in 1986. Two years later, became Assistant Secretary to the Minister of Interior. From 1992 until 1995, he served as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs before becoming Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1997 to 2001. He became chairperson of the ASEAN Regional Forum from 1999 until 2000. When he was the Minister of Foreign Affairs, he proposed flexible engagement as a means to help ASEAN in issues (The Nation, 7 January 2008).

In June 18 last year, the Thai cabinet unanimously endorsed the recommendation from the Thai Foreign Ministry for Surin to be nominated as the Thai candidate for the next secretary-general of ASEAN. He was elected by the ASEAN Foreign Ministers during their 40th annual meeting in Manila in July. He succeeded the outgoing Ong Keng Yong from Singapore on 1st January this year.