Senior Fellow Kantathi Suphamongkhon provided a statement at the Foreign Ministry in Bangkok on the 60th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations Association of Thailand.
Statement of His Excellency Professor Kantathi Suphamongkhon
39th Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand
Senior Fellow at Burkle Center for International Relations (UCLA)
on the Sixtieth Anniversary of the Founding of the United Nations Association of Thailand
Bangkok, 16 August 2013
President Manaspas of the United Nations Association of Thailand, Noeleen Heyzer, Under-Secretary-General of the UN and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to congratulate the United Nations Association of Thailand for being 60 years old. I am delighted to be here to celebrate, together with you, this significant milestone in the active life of UNAT. This is a good time for us to reflect on the good work of UNAT and the long and substantial relations between Thailand and the United Nations.
To me, UNAT has been the gateway between the Thai people at large and the United Nations. From its establishment back in 1953, under the able leadership of its first president, Thanphuying La-iad Pibulsonggram, UNAT has done so much in engaging and informing the Thai people of the noble work of the United Nations. In fact, I personally know a few people who went to work at the United Nations, because of the early activities of UNAT.
UNAT has informed the Thai people of UN work on the maintenance of international peace and security. It has also informed the Thai people of UN work on the protection of human rights and the improvement of human conditions, thereby raising the quality of life around the world, particularly in developing countries.
The United Nations has played a key role in the transformation of the international system, from the Westphalia state–centric system into a modern international community and people-oriented system. Now, I trust that UNAT will have the additional task of explaining to the Thai people, the meaning of a new UN principle called “Responsibility to Protect”, known also in modern language as R2P.
My own relationship with UNAT dates back to the days when I was a junior foreign service officer. I joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1985, when Thailand was an active non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. I was immediately asked to draft speeches for Thai leaders at the United Nations.
I felt strongly that the work of the United Nations should be known to the Thai people at large, and not only to a few people in the Foreign Ministry. The Thai people at large should be aware of the opportunities for them to personally be involved in the work of the United Nations.
Together with my colleagues at UNAT, I reached out to Thai people of all ages throughout Thailand and talked to them about the United Nations. I gave talks at schools, colleges and universities in so many parts of Thailand. Indeed, UNAT gave me a unique opportunity to see and learn about different parts of my own country. I still recall the days I spent in Ubol Rajthani, talking about the United Nations to young students there. Today, I still teach about the United Nations and give speeches about the United Nations around the world. In fact, I have been invited to give a keynote speech about the United Nations in California this coming November.
I am proud of the long relations that Thailand has had with the United Nations, dating back to 1946, when Thailand became the 55th member of the United Nations. My father, Ambassador Konthi, had told me a lot about the United Nations and Thailand, since he was responsible for Thailand’s UN membership negotiations with the United States, the United Kingdom and France, right after the end of the Second World War.
Ladies and gentlemen, throughout today, we have reflected on the United Nations and Thailand’s role in it. Many activities of Thailand at the United Nations are well known, including Thailand’s participation in UN peace-keeping operations around the world. Let me take this opportunity to inform you of a little known fact. Back in 1985, when Thailand was a member of the UN Security Council, the UN had been focusing much attention on conflict resolution and conflict containment. Thailand proposed a concept, new at the time, called “preventive diplomacy”. Thailand also proposed the creation of an “Early Warning System” to inform the UN Secretary General of potential conflicts around the world, thus enabling him to personally engage in preventive diplomacy. Thai proposals were contained in a United Nations speech delivered by Air Chief Marshal Siddhi Savetsila, Thailand’s foreign minister at the time. I was pleased to see that, a year after Thailand made this proposal, the Office of Research and the Collection of Information was formed in the UN Secretariat, for the purposes envisioned by Thailand. As you know, preventive diplomacy is now high on the agenda of the United Nations.
Twenty-seven years have now passed since Thailand was a member of the United Nations Security Council. I, for one, feel that Thailand is ready to serve again as a non-permanent member of the Security Council. I hope that the international community can support Thailand’s bid for another two-year term in the United Nations Security Council, beginning in 2017.
For now, I would like to once again congratulate UNAT for its’ excellent work for sixty years. I look forward to seeing the energetic work of UNAT, as well as the tireless work of Thailand, in close partnership with the United Nations into the future. Thank you very much.