Archive for the ‘Sathirathai’ Category

Coup in Thailand

September 19, 2006

This evening, the Royal Thai military launched a coup against Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai government. According to the AP, they have seized Bangkok and all its media stations and formed a government with King Bhumibol as head of state. This is a sad blow for the Thais, and must fatally ruin Surakiart Sathirathai’s chances to assume the post of UNSG.

Update: The Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister for National Security have been arrested. There is an excellent blog with details here.


What’s up with Ghana?

August 30, 2006

Ban Ki-moon and Surakiart Sathirathai are actively wooing Ghana right now.

A special envoy of the President of South Korea was in Ghana today to deliver a message about the UNSG race:

According to a Ghanaian news agency the content of the message was not disclosed but was believed to be bordering around South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Ban Ki- Moon’s campaign bid to head the United Nations.

At the same time, Sathirathai was meeting with the VP of Ghana in Bangkok:

He used his one-and-half-hour meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Surakiart Sathirathai in Bangkok to explain why the two developing countries should share expertise in cassava and fish production with emphasis on tuna in Ghana for the economic advantage of the two countries.

What is all the excitement about? Does Ghana want their money?

Human Rights NGO continues campaign against Sathirathai

August 24, 2006

Last week, we pointed out an open letter sent by the Asian Human Rights Commission to the Foreign Minister of Argentina about Surakiart Sathirathai. The Bangkok Post has reported on the meeting and its follow up:

Argentina understands Thailand’s position on human rights and has no problem with Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai becoming UN secretary-general, said an aide for Mr Surakiart. Sorajak Kasemsuwan said yesterday that Mr Surakiart had met with Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana, who, he said, had expressed understanding for the human rights situation in Thailand.

We wonder if the Argentinian Foreign Ministry has a statement?

In response to this news story, AHRC issued a statement. Excerpts:

The reason is that like Thailand, Argentina has had a long and terrible history of forced disappearances, killing, torture and other gross abuses of human rights, of which the foreign minister was himself a victim. But unlike Thailand, Argentina has passed through the period of worst abuses and is now working to give redress to the victims and belatedly prosecute alleged perpetrators. While there is still much for the country to do, when compared to anywhere in Asia it is far advanced in addressing and accounting for human rights violations.

Human rights begin at home. Anybody holding a high government office that has done nothing to address rampant injustices and abuses in his own country cannot seriously be expected to do the same for anyone else. Anybody holding a high government office who responds to legitimate and studied criticism with evasion and denial cannot seriously be expected to consider and address the causes for that criticism. The Asian Human Rights Commission is sad to say that the deputy prime minister of Thailand has still done nothing to answer the question, “What are your qualifications to be UN secretary general?”

Human Rights dogs Sathirathai in Latin America

August 15, 2006

This week, Sathirathai goes to Argentina and Peru. The same human rights group that has attacked Sathirathai for his human rights record (here, here, and here) is now publicly asking the Foreign Minister of Argentina to raise this issue:

The Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) called on the Argentine Foreign Minister, Jorge Taiana, to raise the issue following the South American nation’s jailing this month of police officers for forced disappearances there.

In an open letter to Taiana, AHRC urged the Argentine government to seek commitments from Surakiart – who is visiting the country to seek support for his bid to become United Nations secretary-general – that Thailand would end abductions and killings by police and soldiers, particularly in the restive southern border provinces.

In addition to the campaign aspect of this, we do believe that this is the first time that an NGO has openly campaigned against a candidate for UNSG. This marks an important change in UN politics. As a sidenote, we wonder if other NGOs and NGO groups (like will take such a high profile on other issues.

Thai editorial: Thaksin’s Myanmar trip “final nail in Surakiart’s coffin”

August 5, 2006

The Nation, an online Thai news source, editorializes on Thaksin’s trip to Myanmar:

Just last week, Deputy PM Surakiart Sathirathai, the Thai candidate for UN secretary-general, was telling the world how he would push for Suu Kyi’s release and political reforms in that oppressed nation were he elected. If it served no other purpose, Thaksin’s visit at least put the final nail in Surakiart’s coffin as far as his bid for the UN’s top job is concerned.

We have written on the Myanmar situation here and here. Ever since the straw poll, the English-language Thai press has been very harsh on Thaksin.

Sathirathai, Myanmar, and Human Rights

August 4, 2006

In our last post, we pointed out that the Malaysian Press had suggested that Myanmar/Burma ASEAN relations were becoming a problem for Surakiart Sathirathai.

So, Sathirathai has announced that he will push for democracy in Myanmar if elected.  

“We know it is important that democracy must take place in Myanmar (Burma) as soon as possible and Aung San Suu Kyi should be released as soon as possible,” he added.

Of course, this comes in the context of concrete attacks by AHRC — who had previously attacked Sathirathai for his record on human rights inside Thailand –, this time on Myanmar:

Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) Friday said Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, Thailand’s candidate to be the next United Nations secretary general, could not be expected to do anything towards democracy or human rights in Burma.

In a statement issued Friday, the regional rights group said that Surakiart “had done nothing to advance political and social change in Burma, either as deputy prime minister or foreign minister”.

It described the Thai government’s relations with Burma as  “negligent” and business-oriented, the AHRC said that although Surakiart had had five years in which influence Burma’s military regime, he had “never taken advantage” of his position.

Indeed, in a trip to Myanmar last week, Thai PM Thaksin reported that he asked for her release. Of course, the purpose of his trip has been disputed. Thaksin said he went on ASEAN’s behalf. Stratfor says it was about illegal immigration. A number of Thai sources think that Thaksin went for his own personal business reasons (here, here, and here)

Sathirathai as ASEAN candidate, not the Thai candidate

August 2, 2006

Surakiart Sathirathai gave an interview  to Channel News Asia about his candidacy for UN Secretary General. First of all, he says that the political chaos in his country will not effect his candidacy. Why, you might ask?

I am an ASEAN candidate, I am not a candidate of Thailand. Leaders of ASEAN have endorsed my candidature in December 2004 and the reason that ASEAN countries decided to put up a candidature early is because we believe in global good governance and transparency. As ASEAN candidate the politics of only one country in ASEAN has no bearing to the candidature as such.

This line seems like a response, contrast, and invocation of Shashi’s line about being an “Indian Secretary General” not “India’s Secretary General”. It is also reminiscent of Ban’s statement about his own candidacy, which we also found deeply disappointing.

It would also seem that he would have to be accountable for the problems of ASEAN. Indeed, the Malaysian press has argued that Sathirathai has suffered over his country’s relationship with Myanmar and ASEAN’s silence.

Sathirathai also discussed his position on reform:

The UN cannot do everything. UN can do something. Whatever the UN is going to do, the function of the UN has to be effective, accountable and transparent. The UN has to be the paragon of good governance so that it can be the place that people have faith in. In order to be that, the UN has to go through a serious management reform so that the work of the UN can be transparent and accountable.

As the Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of a deeply, deeply corrupt government, how can he do this? He cannot possibly have any credibility on this issue. Silence from the interviewer.

In addition, the interview did not address recent Human Rights and competency criticisms (here and here) that have been layed at Sathirathai.

Channel News Asia reports that they will interview Dhanapala this week. We are looking forward to that.

Update on Sathirathai and Human Rights

July 29, 2006

GPF has a copy of the letter written by the Asian Human Rights Commission. Some excerpts. It is quite vicious, and if fully documentable, ought to be fatal to Sathirathai:

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has since 2004 studied your candidacy to become the next Secretary-General of the United Nations with interest. To be honest, we are a bit perplexed. Try as we might, we have failed to identify the qualifications upon which you could be elected to the job.

As a Harvard law postgraduate we would have thought that you would understand how important it is to maintain principles for the rule of law and human rights in Thailand, and how these are supported by the international system, specifically the United Nations. However, looking at the record of your government since you served as Minister for Foreign Affairs from 2001 to 2005 and after that as Deputy Prime Minister (with special responsibility for foreign affairs), it is hard to find any evidence of this.

1. FAILED to ratify a key UN treaty against torture: The AHRC has been among other concerned groups and individuals who for some years have been saying that if Thailand’s human rights record is to improve it must join the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In fact, the ministry that you headed has the primary responsibility for this. But still, inexplicably, Thailand has not signed.

This point is particularly delicious in light of the Human Rights Committee’s report on the US. But we digress.

2. FAILED to implement any recommendations of a key UN body: The AHRC is not aware of any attempt to implement any of the key recommendations that the UN Human Rights Committee made to you in 2005 after your representatives in Geneva tried unsuccessfully to keep all kinds of gross abuses under the carpet.

3. FAILED to cooperate with UN special procedures: We are not aware of a single case of alleged torture, forced disappearance, extrajudicial killing or other gross abuse in Thailand before the UN working groups or special rapporteurs that your government has properly addressed. Furthermore, Thailand has deliberately snubbed the repeated requests of the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions to visit the country, and has also failed to extend standing invitations to UN experts interested to do the same, for no known reason.

In short, we cannot understand how you can contemplate becoming UN Secretary General from a position as Deputy Prime Minister in a government that refuses to join key UN international treaties, fails to consider or implement the sound recommendations of UN international treaty bodies and keeps UN experts at a distance.

We also cannot understand how you can contemplate becoming UN Secretary General from a position as Deputy Prime Minister in a government that pursues a policy of extrajudicial killings and disappearances against parts of its own population, tacitly endorses the use of torture by its police, has been recognised globally as an enemy of free speech, fails to protect even its own officially-appointed human rights commissioners–let alone the thousands of environmentalists, community leaders, journalists and others with lives at risk in Thailand–and has caused untold damage to the rule of law.

Former Thai FM Attacks Sathirathai

July 28, 2006

Former Thai FM Surin Pitsuwan is attacking Sathirathai for silence on the Israeli killing of UN Peacekeepers:

“When the whole world is up in arms about the deaths of four UN observers in Khiyam, Lebanon, how can Thailand, an aspirant for UN leadership, be so conspicuously silent?” said Surin.

Surin said: “The entire world is up in arms about the issue, strikฌing at the heart of the UN’s peaceฌkeeping role, and we are keeping mum on the case. How could we, in good conscience, claim that we have the interests of the internaฌtional community at heart?”

“The Thaksin government is still at a loss … not for words, but of a sense of international responsibility.

Note that this is not the first time that Sathirathai (or his government or party) has been attacked by his former colleagues. They are suing a former Thai ambassador to the UN for calling Sathirathai unqualified. And recently, there was a criticism of Sathirathai, in particular, for his human rights record.

Fallout from the Straw Poll

July 26, 2006

Well, the first straw poll has occurred. It has raised several questions and ended several questions. Let’s consider some:

Is the race over? Ban Ki-moon got 12 “encouraging” votes and one discouraging. We don’t know if that one was from Japan (highly likely) or from a P5 country. If Japan, the game is essentially over. It is unlikely that we will find a candidate with more support.

Will candidates drop out and more enter? There is a distinct possibility, which Bolton raised in his press briefing:

the various candidates consider what the votes were compared with what
they received there may now be decisions either for additional
candidates to enter the race or for one or more candidates in the race
to drop out.

But who? Sathirathai and ASEAN have been quite vocal that he will stay in the race. There has been little activity from Dhanapala. Either one of them dropping out raises the possibility of new candidates emerging. Indeed, one Australian article has characterized this as “Goh’s chance”, if only Sathirathai were to leave the race. Later, a Thai paper, reporting from the ASEAN Ministerial, reported that “The Singaporean government had informed the five permanent members of the Security Council that former prime minister Goh Chok Tong would not run for the post”. And Dhanapala’s leaving might just result in a Deva candidacy. Not to mention the other array of candidates.

What happens next? Dhanapala will regroup or drop out. Sathirathai will “campaign harder”. Ban and Shashi really have their work cut out for them. Because of Ban’s success on the first ballot, Shashi will need to resolve any of his structural problems. It is certainly possible to have a 13-2 versus 13-2 deadlock or somesuch, requiring other candidates to emerge. Finally, new information could emerge. We still have strong concerns about Ban, which may yet come to the fore.