HIGHLIGHTS

  • He was the interim prime minister of a successful coup in 1991, chosen as the acceptable leader until elections could be held. Anand who was a widely respected business leader, disapproved of military coups and accepted the premiership only from a sense of duty.
  • He launched a period of reform which included expanding press freedom, combating the spread of AIDS, enacting Thailand’s first comprehensive environmental law, promoting support for education, insisting upon transparency in the state’s joint ventures with private companies, and generating millions of extra public revenue by renegotiating questionable deals between the previous government and its favored companies.
  • Elections in 1992 brought to power the chief architect of the 1991 coup, to the outrage of citizens. Pro-democracy demonstrators in Bangkok were killed by the military; nearly a hundred died. Thailand’s king intervened to pave the way for a democratic restoration. Anand was called, once again, to assume the interim premiership and organize credible elections. Three months later, he passed the reins of leadership to a freely elected government.
  • The RMAF board of trustees recognizes “his sustaining the momentum for reform and democracy in Thailand in a time of crisis and military rule.”

 CITATION

The bloodless revolution that ended Thailand’s absolute kingship in 1932 also heralded democracy. But in the years thereafter, military coups d’etat, not elections, became the common landmarks of political change in Thailand. Generals dominated government, rarely elected civilians. By 1990, however, after a decade of hopeful change, many Thais believed that democracy was at last taking root in their country. But the army struck again in February 1991. Promising new elections in due course, the successful coup plotters chose an esteemed civilian to serve as interim prime minis ter : Anand Panyarachun.

Born in 1932, Anand ascended through schools in Bangkok and London and earned his B.A. (Honours) at Trinity College, Cambridge. He joined Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and subsequently served as its Permanent Representative to the United Nations and as ambassador to Canada and the United States. As Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs under a civilian government, he paved the way for reconciliation with China and Vietnam and opposed the continued presence of American military bases in Thailand. As a result, when yet another coup returned the army to power in October 1976, he was branded a communist-sympathizer. Exonerated by an investigation panel, he was assigned to a post abroad. In 1979, he resigned and entered business. By 1990, Anand was Executive Chairman of the Saha-Union conglomerate and a widely respected business leader.

Anand disapproved of military coups and accepted the premiership only from a sense of duty. Acting with surprising independence and broad public acclaim, he launched a volley of reforms. He expanded press freedom, committed the government to combat the spread of AIDS, enacted Thailand’s first comprehensive environmental law, promoted philanthropy and private support for education, insisted upon transparency in the state’s joint ventures with private companies, and generated millions of extra public revenue by renegotiating questionable deals between the previous government and its favored companies. Hundreds of vexing regulations were updated or eliminated. Anand’s aggressive pursuit of privatization, tax reform, and trade liberalization stoked the country’s economy and helped win the confidence of investors at home and abroad. All this in one year’s time!

Elections in March 1992 brought a new crisis. When victorious military-linked political parties named the chief architect of the 1991 coup as prime minister, outraged citizens protested. In May, government soldiers fired upon pro-democracy demonstrators in Bangkok; nearly a hundred died. Thailand’s king now intervened to pave the way for a democratic restoration. Anand was called, once again, to assume the interim premiership and organize credible elections. Three months later, he passed the reins of leadership to a freely elected government.

Anand then returned to Saha-Union. In the years since, he has remained an influential public figure, investing his energy and prestige to harness the resources and goodwill of business on behalf of the environment and to advance other social and political reforms.

Thailand’s democracy is still fragile and flawed by corruption. Yet Anand remains a believer. “It is no longer in question whether we should opt for economic development or democracy,” he asserts. “The two must proceed together.” As a leading member of the assembly drafting his country’s new constitution, he has labored to strengthen democracy in Thailand by securing civil liberties, making government more accountable to citizens, and eliminating votebuying and other scourges of money politics.

A straight-speaking and patient man, sixty-five-year-old Anand knows that not all of Thailand’s problems will be solved in his lifetime. “Diplomats and businessmen are taught to be realists,” he says. “As an ex-diplomat working in the business community, I am very much a realist. ”

In electing Anand Panyarachun to receive the 1997 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service, the board of trustees recognizes his sustaining the momentum for reform and democracy in Thailand in a time of crisis and military rule.

 RESPONSE

President Fidel Ramos, Mrs. Luz Magsaysay, distinguished trustees, fellow awardees, ladies and gentlemen.

I am honored to have been conferred the 1997 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service.

This Award carries the name and spirit of a great Asian leader, one known for his unstinting efforts to pursue reform in every segment of Philippine life. President Magsaysay’s commitment to reform for the benefit of Philippine society and his well-deserved reputation for incorruptibility provide us with a shining example of Asian values.

Throughout my own life and career, I have tried to pursue the same goals. It has been my view, tested in the crucible of my public and private careers, that the advancement of Asian societies can be achieved only in the presence of good governance, including:

First, an honest government, one that serves the interests of the people; Second, an efficient government, one that provides good value for money; Third, a just government, one that endeavours with sincerity and vigour to minimize economic and social inequalities.

Above all, good governance requires compliance with the precepts of democratic rule.

The lessons of the twentieth century are clear. First, no nation can any longer afford to base its prosperity, its security, and its future on military might. Second, no nation can any longer feel secure if its citizens are deprived of the opportunities for meaningful participation in political, economic, and social life. Third and most important, real security can only derive from a nation’s inner strength, the well-being of the people.

In accepting this Award, I do so on behalf of the many Thais who have pursued the same goals that I have striven for, namely, the building of a democratic society, emphasizing people’s participation, economic prosperity, and social justice.

Thank you.

 BIOGRAPHY

Diplomat. Business executive. Constitution writer. Twice prime minister and savior of Thailand’s democracy. Anand Panyarachun has no problem with this distillation of his professional life—except for the last. True, he served as his country’s prime minister from March 1991 to April 1992 and again for four months from June to October in 1992. But Anand would not agree that he saved Thailand. “If you look at the political history of societies, you will find that democracy is a long and arduous process that is sometimes painful and requires a process of maturation. The development of democratic systems in Thailand is due to the efforts of many forces in Thai society, and not to any one single individual.” The most he will accept is that his stewardship of the country during the tumultuous period after the military coup d’état served as a catalyst to promote a firmer foundation for Thai democracy.

Retired from the diplomatic service after twenty-three years, British-educated Anand was running a textile-based conglomerate, Saha-Union Public Company, when the generals who overthrew the government of Chatichai Choonhavan asked him to lead the country. Out of a call of duty, Anand agreed and proceeded to lead a government regarded as one of Thailand’s cleanest and most competent. When he stepped down after overseeing national elections in 1992, he thought the country was back on track. But the victorious parties eventually nominated General Suchinda Kraprayoon, one of the coup leaders, as prime minister. Angered by what they saw as the army’s second coup, Bangkok residents took to the streets in protest. A bloody crackdown ensued and, through a royal decree, Anand was nominated to return as prime minister of Thailand. When he slipped back to private life after his second term as prime minister, the country had a popularly elected civilian prime minister and the army’s influence on political and business life was on the wane. Afterwards, Anand helped institutionalize the reforms he started by serving as chair of the Constitution Drafting Committee that was tasked with formulating Thailand’s new constitution.

Anand was born on August 9, 1932, two months after Thailand’s absolute monarchy was abolished. His father, Phya Prichanusat, was a member of an established family that distinguished itself in service to the monarchy. His forebears belonged to the Mon people of Myanmar, a tribe known for its fighting skills. They settled in Potharam Village in Thailand’s Ratchaburi Province, an area with a significant Mon population. Phya Prichanusat’s father, Phya Dhepprachun, served the kingdom as undersecretary of defense, equivalent to the rank of permanent secretary today. King Rama V, who ruled from 1868 to 1910, bestowed the family name “Panyarachun” (originally spelled Panyarjun) on him. “Panya means wisdom,” explains Anand. “Arachun (Arjun) is the name of the hero of the [Hindu epic] Ramayana.” Early on, Phya Dhepprachun’s son also distinguished himself. Phya Prichanusat won a King’s Scholarship to study in England, where he stayed for eight years.

(For the complete biography, please email biographies@rmaf.org.ph)