15 October 2004

So you are now a declared candidate to be the next Secretary General and you have ten Asian ministers to prove it. There are, of course, forty-one other Asian countries to persuade. But its a start. And you have Richard Holbrooke on your side. Or at least he was quoted in the N.Y. Times to have said something positive. He knows Asia since Vietnam and could be of great help -- if Senator Kerry wins. Otherwise, you're on your own -- Americanwise, so to speak. How about Chinesewise? Clearly, Singapore has backed down. A contractual arrangement with a New York "events" company to promote their aspiring ambassador was wasted as he bade us farewell. Philippines, a U.N. country and a Security Council member, must have recognized its slim chances. So now you're the first in the ring. "The early bird gets the worm" said the Philippino. But the U.N. is certainly no worm. It is more like the bird; who flies first gets shot at most. There are specialists in the art of the ambush. That's a coward's game but some at U.N. Headquarters love it, because others do their dirty work while they look -- though not necessarily smell -- like a rose. There are also 180 members to carry on board, though the Security Council's 15 are essential. Five of them have veto power. The French will insist on a Francophone. "Je parle un peux le francais" will not do. More will have to be squeezed out of you and your Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. By the way, is there any shortcut to these wonderful sounding but difficult names? Sahisak Paengketkoew, your current spokesman, may have a hard time introducing himself at daily noon briefings. So will Supachai Panitchpakdi. One name alone like Surakiart Sathiratai may be enough. Even then some would be more inclined to a more familiar Asian name -- like Jayantha Dhanapala.