Outgoing Surin urges asean to 'think regionally'
The challenge for Asean is to forge a new strategic equilibrium to balance the superpowers in the region, said Surin Pitsuwan, former Asean secretary-general, who was succeeded by Le Luong Minh of Vietnam yesterday."There is no central [body] or organisation besides Asean capable of forging unity and equilibrium in the region. The Asean forum is the most important for all sides [in the region]," Surin told Krunthep Turakij Television, a sister organisation of The Nation, yesterday.
Surin said that in his five years as secretary-general, which ended last month, he had tried his best to convince Asean member states to consider the interests of the region as a whole and not the immediate interests of each member state. However, such attempts were not always successful.
Surin said that during his time at Asean, he had striven to make the grouping better known outside the region, as well as among the bloc's 600 million people.
While the European Union is an inspiration for Asean, it is not a model for the region's body, cautioned Surin, adding that development and Asean integration would proceed at their own pace.
Surin pointed out that unlike the EU, Asean member states have different political systems, making development even more challenging - although Asean has been around for more than four decades.
On a personal note, Surin thanked two former prime ministers, Chuan Leekpai and Anand Panyarachun, for advice and moral support given him during his five-year tenure at Asean. He said Thai politics had prepared him well for the job of Asean secretary-general.
He also added that he is open to many possibilities as to what to do now, and they include a teaching post at a foreign university or working with some international organisations.