Surakiart grew up in Bangkok. His father was an official in the Thai Ministry of Finance and mother was a Professor in French literature at Chulalongkorn University. He graduated with a First Class (Valedictorian) degree in law from Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University. He earned two masters degrees, a Masters in Law (LL.M.) from Harvard Law School with a thesis on human rights and another in law and diplomacy (M.A.L.D) from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. Surakiart was the first Thai to earn a doctorate in law from Harvard Law School. His doctoral thesis, “An Understanding of the Relationship Among International Legal Discourse About Development, Third World Countries, and International Peace,” (1985) explored the global trade law regime from the perspective of the third world. He later co-edited Third World Attitudes Toward International Law: An Introduction (1987) and authored various articles on law and development including "Peace and Security: The Challenge and the Promise", 41 Texas International Law Journal 513 (2006). From the late 1980s until the late 1990s, Surakiart taught in the Faculty of Law at Chulalongkorn University and ultimately became Dean.
In 1995, Dr. Surakiart became Thailand’s youngest Finance Minister under Prime Minister Banharn Silapa-Archa. Surakiart's supporters maintain that although he inherited a national economy beset by structural challenges that ultimately exposed it to the Thai financial crisis, Dr. Surakiart designed and implemented reforms that, while deeply unpopular, moved the economy in the right direction and have become an essential part of Thailand's economic policy. Nevertheless, he resigned less than a year after his appointment over his handling of the collapse of the Bangkok Bank of Commerce.
After his tenure at the Finance Ministry, Surakiart went on to serve as Vice-Chairman of the Advisory Council on Economic and Foreign Affairs under Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh until 1997. Following that, he was President of the Institute of Social and Economic Policy (ISEP), a think tank, from 1997 to 2001. In the late 1990s, Surakiart led several major Thai corporations through restructurings and bankruptcy proceedings, and founded and chaired a major Bangkok law firm.
In 2001, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra appointed Dr. Surakiart as Minister of Foreign Affairs, a position he held until early 2005 when he became Deputy Prime Minister. As Foreign Minister, Surakiart sought to promote regional economic development through various cooperative networks, including Ayeyarwaddy-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) and the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD). As Deputy Prime Minister and Acting Minister of Culture, Surakiart now oversees the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Education, and Culture.
On 2 October, 2006, he becomes an independent politician by resigning from his last political party Thai Rak Thai following the coupe d'tat of Thailand. His intention in this political exodus is still unknown but the military junta of Thailand has announced to continue supporting his bid for UN top job.
The Royal Thai Government had nominated Dr. Surakiart as Thailand’s candidate for United Nations Secretary-General. Many other nations, including the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) had pledged to support Dr. Surakiart’s bid. He was also rumored to have the backing of China, a permanent member of the Security Council. Surakiart's candidature may have been adversely affected by the controversial policies of Thaksin Shinawatra, whose relations with the military junta in Myanmar and handling of unrest in the predominantly Muslim south of the country were particularly contentious. Most notably, the Asian Human Rights Commission campaigned against Surakiart on account of Thailand's policy toward Myanmar. However, Surakiart's supporters contended that he spear-headed Thailand's "prosper thy neighbor" policy of regional economic coordination and that his quiet diplomatic style had helped resolve numerous long-standing regional disputes.
The Secretary General is appointed by the General Assembly, on the recommendation of the Security Council. To be elected, a candidate to the post needs 9 votes from the Security Council, including those of all 5 permanent members. The General Assembly then holds a vote; two-thirds of Member States need to support the candidacy for the Secretary General to be appointed.
In a second September 14 straw poll, Surakiart gained some ground, scoring 9 encouragements, 3 discouragements, and 3 no opinions. However, he still scored third behind Ban and Tharoor. Ban scored 14-1-0 and Tharoor scored 10-3-2.
In a straw poll held on September 28, however, Surakiart fell into fourth place, winning only 5 encouragments, 7 discouragements and 3 no opinions. The entry of additional candidates, including former Lativan President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, into the race, combined with the military coup that took place only weeks before the poll, were likely causes of Surakiart's loss of support.
South Korea's foreign minister won the support of the Security Council's five permanent members in an informal vote on the next UN secretary general held on 3 October 2006. Ban Ki-moon was the only one of six candidates to escape a veto in the informal ballot. The poll is non-binding but, barring a major surprise, correspondents say Mr Ban looks set to take the top role. The formal vote will take place on 9 October 2006.
Opposition to Surakiart has been especially vocal among the Jayanama family of Thai diplomats. In a mass rally in front of thousands of anti-Thaksin protesters, former ambassador to the UN Asda Jayanama noted "Because we have a weak foreign minister who responded to Thaksin as if he were his servant, we have been unable to solve any problems". Asda also claimed that Surakiart Sathirathai parked his car outside the official residence of UN secretary-general at night so he could see it. "It's very embarrassing," Asda told the crowd. The former diplomat blasted Surkiart's candidacy as a lost cause and an embarrassment for Thailand's international standing, claiming that it was "silly" to believe that handshakes from 127 countries amounted to formal endorsements. He has also publicly called Surakiart “a third rate politician”, "clumsy", "bungling", and "lacking a brand name".
While Foreign Minister, Surakiart transferred Asda's younger brother Surapong Jayanama to become ambassador to Germany (from Director General of the East Asia Department of the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs). He also transferred Asda's younger brother Apipong Jayanama to become head of the Institute of Foreign Affairs (from Director General of the Department of American and South Pacific Affairs). Some have speculated that Asda's opposition to Surakiart might stem from these events
During his term as Foreign Minister, it was often alleged that Dr. Surakiart was in complicity with international pedophile and prostitution rings to traffic Thai children to foreign countries. He was repeatedly accused of covering up for pedophiles in the Foreign Ministry and to have embezzled from the government through sham child protection schemes in order to finance his campaign for the UN's top post.
In keeping with Thai tradition, Dr. Surakiart spent a period as a monk in a Buddhist monastery. He is married to Thanpuying Dr. Suthawan Sathirathai, a niece to the Queen, who holds several advanced degrees including a doctorate in Land Economy from the University of Cambridge (UK). They have one son, a graduate of the London School of Economics, who recently left the Thai Ministry of Finance to continue his postgraduate studies at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
Yang Jiechi Meets Respectively with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Former Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand Surakiart Sathirathai
Apr 25, 2013; BEIJING, China -- The following information was released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China: On...
COLIN L. POWELL DELIVERS REMARKS WITH FLORIDA GOVERNOR JEB BUSH AND FOREIGN MINISTER SURAKIART SATHIRATHAI OF THAILAND
Jan 04, 2005; SECRETARY POWELL HOLDS NEWS CONFERENCE WITH GOVERNOR BUSH AND FOREIGN MINISTER SURAKIART, AS RELEASED BY THE STATE DEPARTMENT...