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Michael Vatikiotis: The statesman who raised Southeast Asia's profile

As secretary-general of ASEAN, Surin Pitsuwan fought the odds to do good in the region

Surin Pitsuwan, then secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, speaks during a lecture in Kuala Lumpur in 2012.   © Reuters

Southeast Asia is a hard region for anyone to straddle. There is no common language, sovereignty is strongly asserted, and there are plenty of deeply felt enmities. If there was one man in recent history who managed to overcome some of these obstacles and project the region's vitality and importance, it was Surin Pitsuwan of Thailand, who died of a heart attack on Nov. 30 at the age of 68.

Surin was best known as a gregarious, always obliging and highly articulate statesman who first came to prominence as foreign minister of Thailand in the 1990s and later served as secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

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