Dr. Surin Abdul Halim bin Ismail Pitsuwan, 57, is a political scientist by training and, a politician and a diplomat by vocation. Born in a madrasah (pondok) in Thailand's Southern province of Nakorn Sri Thammarat, he received his primary Islamic education from his grand-father, Hj. Yakoob bin Abdul Rauf, a well-known ulama, who was trained in Patani and Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
For his secular education, Surin was sent to a government primary school located in a Buddhist temple near his village. Thus, he was well prepared to play a mediating role between his own Muslim community and the Thai Buddhist society at large. A role that he will have to repeat with the international community when he later served his nation in various capacities.
Dr. Surin received his B.A Degree in Political Science from Thammasat University in Bangkok and Claremont Men's College in California, USA, in 1972. With the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, he went on to pursue his Masters and Ph.D. degree at Harvard University (1974, 1982). He also spent one and a half years studying Arabic and doing his research at the American University in Cairo, Egypt (1975-1977). He became a Congressional Fellow under the sponsorship of the American Political Science Association (APSA) in 1983-1984, which enabled him to have a first-hand experience of the American legislative process.
Upon his return to Bangkok in 1986, Dr. Surin was elected a Member of Parliament from his home province of Nakorn Sri Thammarat under the banner of the Democrat Party. He has served as the Secretary to the Speaker of the House of Representative (1986-1989), Assistant to the Deputy Minister of Interior (1989-1992), Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs (1992-1995), Minister of Foreign Affairs (1997-2001), Chairman of the ASEAN Standing Committee (2000).
Aside from his national service, Dr. Surin has served on many international commissions. He was a member of the Commission on Human Security (2001-2003), World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization (2002-2003), an advisor to the UNDP Human Development Report Project (2003-2004) and a member of the Advisory Board, UN Human Security Trust Fund.