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The Pacific Economic Cooperation Council mourns the loss of Tun Thanat Khoman who passed away in Bangkok on March 3rd, 2016 at the age of 102. He was the last surviving "founding father" of ASEAN as well as a founder of PECC.
Tun Thanat Khoman was the foreign minister of Thailand from 1959 to 1971 during which time he played an instrumental role in mediating between Indonesia and Malaysia, paving the way for the establishment of ASEAN in 1967. The ASEAN Declaration was signed in Bangkok by the foreign ministers Adam Malik of Indonesia, Narciso R Ramos of the Philippines, Tun Abdul Razak of Malaysia, S Rajaratnam of Singapore and Thanat Khoman of Thailand.
Beyond ASEAN, noting the increasing interdependence among the Asia-Pacific economies, he actively advocated strengthening regional cooperation in the Pacific.
“In ASEAN, Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister, Thanat Khoman, was the most enthusiastic proponent of Pacific-wide cooperation. He believed that such cooperation could succeed despite wide disparities in development. Obstacles due to historical and psychological factors could be overcome, provided cooperation was non-exclusive, drawing in anyone willing to accept the principles and share the purposes of a potential Pacific Community.” (Andrew Elek, Chapter 2 – The Birth of PECC: The Canberra Seminar in The Evolution of PECC: The first 25 years, 2005)
Following the Pacific Community Seminar held in Canberra in September 1980, which set the stage for the creation of PECC and eventually APEC, Dr. Thanat hosted in 1982 what effectively became the Second General Meeting of PECC when he was the Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand incumbent.
“After the Pacific Community Seminar was held in Canberra at the initiative of Masayoshi Ohira and Malcolm Fraser, it was through the support of Tun Thanat that a group of ASEAN researchers produced a report on ASEAN and Pacific Economic Cooperation to keep up the momentum. That group convened a meeting in Bangkok in June 1982 which became known as the second PECC General Meeting. Thereafter, the next meeting of PECC was convened in Bali, Indonesia. We owe Tun Thanat a debt of gratitude for his vision and support that kept the PECC initiative and Asia-Pacific cooperation going. This support for PECC continued through the following decades – in spite of his inability to travel at his age, he remained for decades the head of the Thai National Committee for Pacific Economic Cooperation. We will miss him.” (Jusuf Wanandi, former Co-chair of PECC)
The last General Meeting of PECC that Dr. Thanat attended was in Hong Kong in 2001. He held the position of Chair of the Thai national committee for PECC until July 2009.
“When that day arrives – and it may arrive sooner than one thinks – the world centre of gravity will unavoidably shift to the Pacific region which is enormously endowed with both human and material resources, with long cultural traditions as well as the scientific and technical ingenuity. This may be a vision now but a realistic vision, provided we all give the best of our intellect, a show of sagacity and the strength of our conviction.” (from Pacific Economic Cooperation: The Next Phase, Thanat Khoman, 1983)
[Photo: Tun Thanat is on the right, at Standing Committee Meeting of PECC in Bali, April 1997]