In remembrance of Police General Pow Sarasin
On Thursday, March 7, Thailand lost one of its most illustrious and prodigious sons to septicemia, or infection of the blood. For many who knew him well, the loss was deeply and dolefully felt.I have never before written anything to praise anyone publicly. But the passing of Police General Pow Sarasin is an exception. I feel that I should do something to honour the man. The reason is not because he and I were good personal friends and old schoolmates, nor is it because our two families are close, and nor is the fact that Pow and I were contemporaries as government servants, but because it is a fitting time to give proper recognition to a man whose immense contributions to the nation must serve as an example and reminder of the nobility of a citizen who made a difference.
General Pow Sarasin showed his leadership qualities at an early stage of his life, as illustrated by his election as president of the Thai Students' Association in the United States of America. Upon his return to Thailand, he started his civil service career in the Police Department and moved up the ranks with fine performances until he became director-general of the Police Department, the agency that is inarguably the most important government entity for safeguarding the nation's internal peace and security.
Throughout his career in the government, Police General Pow was a model of competence, honesty, integrity and humility - the qualities whose concomitant is rare and exceptional in any branch of government bureaucracy.
It was to no one's surprise that Pow was handpicked by former interim prime minister Anand Panyarachun to become his deputy prime minister and interior minister. In that capacity, Pow oversaw one of the cleanest elections in Thailand's democracy. His hands-on handling of the entrenched special political interests resulted in the end of many well-connected subversive influential coteries. His blunt and transparent supervision of the government's narcotics eradication effort brought about a drastic reduction in the trafficking and proliferation of illicit substances that are the scourge of society. The seriousness of his endeavour sent the strongest message to traffickers and all wannabes that Pow meant business, and that it meant bad news for them. The most remarkable achievement in his anti-narcotics programmes was they were carried out well within the parameter of the laws, as two wrongs never make it right.
In addition to his outstanding achievements in government, politics, business and industry, as well as social services, Pow also made significant contributions in the area of higher education. He served as chairman of Khon Kaen University Council, chairman of Mae Fah Luang University Council and chairman of the Toyota Foundation - a philanthropic organisation that has provided thousands of annual scholarships to Thai students to pursue college education and in many fields of advanced technology.
We live in a world where quick fixes are not only expediently required, but also demanded. The bar of honesty and decency has been incessantly lowered. Nothing is held sacred except fame and fortune, regardless of how they are acquired. It is a world where people claim their rights without ever recognising their responsibilities. Duties to the country have become a quaint idea and fading ideal. A sense of entitlement, no matter how undeserving, rules the day. We live in an environment where crimes and corrupt acts make news and headlines in a way that they seem praiseworthy. They became not only tolerable but acceptable. Meanwhile, genuinely laudable acts become fewer and far between, as if they are legends, as if they are endangered species.
Against these backdrops, General Pow stood out as a shining pillar, and he leaves a legacy that will be difficult to follow. However, his indelible footprint should be recognised and honoured so the new generation may realise that the principled and honourable ideals that Pow fought all his life to uphold do indeed exist, and that they are not mere abstract qualities.
In remembering him, our society may see a model example that they can and must emulate for the better prospects of future generations. By remembering and honouring him, we may see a way out of this dire and decadent social setting and its warped value systems that surround us. If that can be achieved, Pow himself would have been satisfied. And that would have been good enough for him and all of his toil.
"Cows, buffalos and elephants
Upon their demise,
Leave to the world their horns and tusks.
Man, nothing more or less, he leaves
Than his own deeds."