Prem Tinsulanond, the statesman

By Patipat Kittichokwattana

Not many men clearly be respected by all people in the country. General Prem Tinsulanond, the statesman, is one of them. He was the 16th prime minister of Thailand who took 8 years in position, the longest tenure of Thai prime minister till present. His dedication to the nation, religion, and the monarch were obviously proved. After retired, he was suddenly appointed to be President of the Privy Council and received honored as a statesman.

There were famous political leaders within his period such as Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia, Suharto of Indonesia, and Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines. As time passed by, we knew that the great leader is the one who gives more than takes. Lee Kuan Yew was the first prime minister of Singapore after separation from Malaysia. He spent 30 years on position to successfully transition a small island of Singapore to the developed country. Though he was criticized for persecuted against opponents, but his achievements in political stability, economic progress, and social integration were admitted. Finally, he was recognized as the father of Singapore.

Mahathir Mohamad spent 23 years on his first prime minister tenure to modernize Malaysia. He is an inspirational leader who eager to establish automotive industries and, importantly, national car. His strong faith in Islam led to settle the International Islamic University of Malaysia as to promote Islamic education. His strong leadership clearly shown among crises. For example, the 1997 Asian financial crisis pressed Malaysia to commit International Monetary Fund (IMF) schemes to cut spending and raise interest rate, but he bravely did reverse by increased government spending and fixed Ringgit to the US dollar. Malaysia finally recovered from the crisis faster than other countries.

In contrast, as an Indonesian’s president, Suharto spent 31 years successfully boosted economic growth and industrialization, but it coincided with corruption within his government and monopoly by his family business. The 1997 Asian financial crisis and unable to cope with political tension brought him to resign and were later charged in corruption investigation. As well as Ferdinand Marcos, president of the Philippines, whose 25 years reign was ended by the people rise up to removed him from power. Marcos and his family were alleged in corruption and monopoly too.

General Prem Tinsulanond’s lifetime achievements were widely recognized. As a prime minister, he ruled foreign policy and initiated diplomatic relationship with China during Vietnam expansion war in which subsequently withheld domino effects from communist ideology. As internal security role, importantly, he issued the Prime Minister Order 66/1980 that gave more emphasized on politic than military actions which embraced people who falsely joint communist party and results in peaceful society.

As a macro-economic policy maker, he led to change the fixed exchange rate with US dollar to a more flexible with some major currencies or basket system. It results in boosted Thai trade surplus paved the road for export-led growth. As a facilitator of industrial modernization, he developed the Eastern Seaboard Development Program that fundamentally changed Thailand to new pace of auto industries, electronics, food processing, to name a few.

Contrast to other political leaders, after 8 years in position he magnificently stepped down and said the impressive words “I’ve enough”. The power peacefully transition to the next prime minister. Though the least years in position, his contributions found equivalent to Lee Kuan Yew and Mahathir Mohamad. Importantly, not even a bit of corruption and monopoly found in his tenure. After retired, his strong influences on political and military leaders could be perceived in many occasions by political observers. Despite powerful, he lived his life simple and contented way. He frequently said to the people that his life dedicated to the country.

In the morning of 26th May 2019, General Prem Tinsulanond passed away. As a Thai people, I express my deepest condolences on the passing of the Statesman, Prem Tinsulanond.


Ferdinand Marcos (11 September 1917 – 28 September 1989) in President 30 December 1965 – 25 February 1986.

General Prem Tinsulanond (26 August 1920 – 26 May 2019) in Prime minister 13 March 1980 – 28 April 1988.

Suharto (8 June 1921 – 27 January 2008) in President 27 March 1968 – 21 May 1998.

Lee Kuan Yew (16 September 1923 – 23 March 2015) in Prime minister 3 June 1959 – 28 November 1990.

Mahathir Mohamad (10 July 1925 – Present) in Prime minister 16 July 1981 – 31 October 2003, and 10 May 2018 – present.

[Photo Credit:]

Patipat Kittichokwattana, PaddyNews writer