Thai statesman Siddhi dies

Thai statesman Siddhi dies
Former Thai Foreign Minister Siddhi Savetsila (R) with former Philippines Foreign Minister Carlos Romulo at the 15th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in 1987.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

FORMER foreign minister ACM Siddhi Savetsila died yesterday at the age of 96. Privy councillor and a former deputy prime minister, he died of natural causes at about 5am, Matichon Online reported.

Bathing rites will be held tomorrow at Wat Benchamabophit and funeral rites will start later on the same day.

Siddhi was the son of Maha Ammat Tri Phraya Wannapruekpicharn (Thongkham Savetsila), a high-ranking official in the royal government, and Khunying Khlip Wannapruekpicharn, from the influential Bunnag family. His paternal grandfather was Henry Alabaster, the British consul to Siam during the reign of King Rama IV, who later served as adviser to King Rama V.

After graduating from Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Engineering in 1938, Siddhi won a Royal Thai Air Force scholarship to continue studies in Metallurgy Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US.

During World War II, he joined the Free Thai Movement (Seri Thai) while still studying in the US. Seri Thai fought against the de facto occupation of Thailand by Japanese forces. Siddhi also collected data for the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which was the predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

In May 2000, Siddhi was among the five Free Thai veterans who were awarded the Agency Seal Medallion by the then-CIA director, George Tenet.

Siddhi served as foreign minister between February 1980 and August 1990 during the premiership of General Kriangsak Chamanan, General Prem Tinsulanonda and General Chatichai Choonhavan.

He also previously served as secretary-general of the National Security Council from 1975 to 1980, and later as leader of the now-defunct Social Action Party (SAP). He gave up his seat as SAP leader in September 1990 and later resigned from the party.

His Majesty appointed him as privy councillor in 1991.

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