Surin volunteers to lead education reform

Former Asean secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan says he would like to lead reforms to the education system if given the chance.

Mr Surin, who handed over the Asean secretary-general post to Le Luong Minh of Vietnam last week, gave a talk on Thailand and Asean affairs as he launched two books in Bangkok yesterday.

He said Thailand must build up its human capital by increasing standards and expectations in the education system.

"We need to change the mindset and attitude of the people from being complacent and too relaxed, or sabai, sabai," he said. "We have to produce competitive citizens to confront the challenges of an integrated world." Education is key to reducing corruption, he said.

Mr Surin will report to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra tomorrow after wrapping up his duties at Asean.

Participating more actively in Asean would help Thailand learn how to survive within a globalised market, he said.

"The whole system is wobbling. Having faith or being content in one's own destiny is fine but we should not succumb to the surrounding conditions," Mr Surin said, adding that Thais must be ready to work hard. He said the government is facing several policy cliffs _ the constitutional amendment, education reform and labour issues.

It needs to choose the best way to confront those challenges, said Mr Surin, who was previously an MP for the opposition Democrat Party before taking the Asean portfolio.

He said the government should stress policies that build solidarity rather than focusing on amending the charter. Public sentiment and the overall political atmosphere was against making constitutional changes. It should also focus more on long-term labour policies ahead of the implementation of the Asean Economic Community (AEC), he said.

The problem of human trafficking and illegal immigration is at the forefront of policy challenges at a time when the AEC is about to be introduced, Mr Surin added.

The world is watching how Thailand responds to the influx of migrants, he said, in an apparent reference to foreign workers and the recent arrival of hundreds of illegal Rohingya migrants.

Mr Surin said Asean and the United Nations must help resolve the Rohingya issue.

"All sides should help Myanmar in dealing with the problem as there are also constitutional and citizenship challenges in their country," he said.

On the Preah Vihear temple case pending at the International Court of Justice, he said it is risky for Thailand to reject what the court decides.

The country should be careful not to instigate a quarrel with its neighbours, he said. "We need to find ways to peacefully coexist," he said.

About the author

Writer: Achara Ashayagachat
Position: Senior Reporter