Tej Bunnag

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Tej Bunnag (Thai:

บุนนาค; born 25 November 1943) is a Thai historian and diplomat. He has served as Thai Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, France and the United States, and Permanent Representative to the United Nations. He served as Thailand’s Foreign Minister from July to September 2008.


Tej belongs to the Bunnag family (Thai: สกุลบุนนาค), one of the great families of Siam (or Thailand) founded by immigrants and very influential in politics, economy and society since then until the present time. His grandfather Tom Bunnag was foreign minister in the Phraya Phahon Phonphayuhasena government in 1933-34. Tej attended Vajiravudh boarding school and Malvern College in England. He studied at King’s College, University of Cambridge (M.A. 1965) and at St Antony’s College, University of Oxford (D.Phil. 1968). His dissertation is on the reform of Thai provincial administration under Damrong Rajanubhab from 1892.[1]

He entered the diplomatic service in 1969, headed the East Asia Department from 1973, and became First Secretary of the Thai Embassy in Jakarta in 1976. In 1986 he was appointed Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China and as such was also accredited to North Korea until 1990. In 1990, he moved to the United Nations in New York City as Thailand’s Permanent Representative. Between 1996 and 2000, he was Ambassador to France and subsequently Ambassador to the United States until 2001. On October 1, 2001, he became Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the highest-ranking diplomat in the country.

On July 26, 2008, he became foreign minister in Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej’s cabinet, succeeding Noppadon Pattama, and retained that post only until September 3, 2008, when Noppadon was forced to resign after exerting too much pressure for the listing of the Preah Vihear Temple (Prasat Preah Vihear), which has been at the center of a violent border conflict with Cambodia for decades, on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. In his short tenure, Tej managed to take the tension out of this border conflict between the two countries, which had previously deployed troops along the region as the situation escalated.

The domestic political crisis, with thousands of government opponents besieging Prime Minister Samak’s seat of government (Government House), led to his resignation as foreign minister on September 3, 2008, after only forty days in office, following the imposition of a state of emergency on Bangkok. Following weeks of protests against Samak’s government, he was finally removed from office by the Constitutional Court on 9 September 2008 for an unconstitutional sideline.

Tej is also active as a historian. In his book “In Memoriam Phya Anuman Rajadhon”, published together with Michael Smithies in 1970, articles dealt with the Kingdom of Ayutthaya as well as with Wan Waithayakon, the President of the 11th UN General Assembly. His 1978 book, The Provincial Administration of Siam 1892-1915, is a standard work on the Kalahom (Ministry of Defense), Monthon (Supreme Administrative Unit), and one of Thailand’s most influential figures in the 20th century, Damrong Rajanubhab.


  • Tej Bunnag, Michael Smithies (eds.): “In Memoriam Phya Anuman Rajadhon”, The Siam Society, Bangkok 1970
  • Tej Bunnag, “The Provincial Administration of Siam 1892-1915”. Oxford University Press 1978, ISBN 0-19-580343-4


  • Order of Chula Chom Klao, Thailand, Commander (2001)
  • Ordre national du Mérite, France, Grand Officer (2000)
  • White Elephant Order, Thailand, Grand Cordon (1992)
  • Order of Merit Pro Merito Melitensi, Order of Malta, Grand Cross (1991)
  • Order del Cóndor de los Andes, Bolivia, Grand Officer (1989)
  • Order of the Crown of Thailand, Thailand, Grand Cordon (1987)

Web links

Individual references

  1. Tej Bunnag: The provincial administration of Siam from 1892 to 1915. Doctoral thesis, Oxford University, 1968.