Pathom Vongsuravatana (Wongsurawat)
Pathom Vongsuravatana (Wongsurawat)
Pathom Vongsuravatana (born January 19, 1934 in Nakorn Ratchasima, Thailand, died May 10, 2011 in Bordeaux, France) was a Thai businessman and diplomat (obtained French citizenship in 1986).
Pathom Vongsuravatana was the oldest son of Damrong Wongsurawat (born 1901 in Nakorn Pathom, died 1973 in Nakorn Ratchasima, Order of the White Elephant), an industrialist of
Chinese Teochew origin, and Pa-ob Kosathit, the daughter of a civil servant in railway administration. His father owned two factories, one for rice-husking (Damrongporn) and the other for ice
(Damrongthai), as well as the first hotel in Nakorn Ratchasima (Damrongrak). Pathom Vongsuravatana was the oldest of nine children.
Pathom Vongsuravatana started school in Nakorn Ratchasima, then went to high school in Bangkok, where he learned French. He then improved his French at the Touraine Institute and was accepted to the University of Bordeaux.
In 1959, he defended his doctoral dissertation, which was titled “Monnaie et crédit en Thaïlande” (“Money and Credit in Thailand”). His committee was directed by Joseph LAJUGIE, and Jacques ELLUL and Dmitri Georges LAVROF served on his jury.
On April 27, 1957, Pathom Vongsuravatana married Martine Roy, the seventeenth child of Dr. Jean Roy, a surgeon from Tours who was killed by the Germans during World War II, and Germaine Jouanneau.
He had three children from this marriage: Frédéric (born in 1958), Béatrice (born in 1959), and Raphaël (born in 1970).
Although he came from a family of practicing Buddhists, Pathom Vongsuravatana converted to Catholicism at a young age and remained a practicing Catholic for his entire life. He grew close to the Jesuit community in Thailand when he returned there in the early 1960s. In the 2000s he represented Thailand several times at the meeting of the International Christian Union of Business Executives (known as UNIAPAC).
From 1960 to 1964, Pathom Vongsuravatana was responsible for international relations with Thai Airways International, a new company at the time. He was mainly in charge of relations with SAS airlines, who provided the Thai company with pilots and air hostesses.
At the same time, Pathom Vongsuravatana was teaching economics at Kasetsart University in Bangkok. He also worked as a correspondent for French newspapers, including Les débats and Le Monde. Additionally, he translated French literary works into Thai, including several plays by Molière, as well as a book for learning French.
From 1964 to 1968, he was the sales manager for Larsen Cognac, which he left on bad terms. He blamed the company for having reduced his commission, and gained compensation through the courts.
From 1968 to 1995, he was an authorized sales representative for several French wineries and spirits companies. He introduced Armagnac to Japan in 1972, and Japan became the first world market for it in 19781. He shattered the traditional distribution channels for Cognac in Japan in 1986².
From 1968 to 1980, he mainly worked for cooperative enterprises selling Armagnac and Cognac. Starting in 1980, he worked more a more with “little” wine dealers and independent producers.
In 1988, his sales agency became the main agency in southwestern France in terms of export figures.
In 1992, with partners from Japan and Thailand, he acquired Château Saint-Lô, a winery in the Saint-Emillion Grand Cru appellation3.
In 1994, in spite of a negative record with Thailand’s Minster of Foreign Affairs (see below), he was named Honorary Consul of the Kingdom of Thailand in Bordeaux and retired from business4.
From 1994 to 2006, he was a very active and influential consul. He met His Majesty the King of Thailand in 1997.
In the early 1960s, Pathom Vongsuravatana was suspected of “Communism” for having been openly in favor of introducing trade unionism to Thailand. He was the object of a report, possibly by a malicious former classmate, for the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Starting at the end of the 1990s, Pathom Vongsuravatana gradually broke his ties with the Thai Democratic Party (he became Consul of Thailand when Dr. Surin Pitsuwan was the Minister of Foreign Affairs).
He first broke ties with the protective figure of Dr. Thanat Khoman, whom he reproached for the latter’s greed and anachronism. He was also one of the first, if not the first, to denounce the demagogue Suthep Taugsuban who, according to him “did nothing for the Democratic Party.”
In various interviews, he practiced a total freedom of speech and dismissed both the Yellow Shirts (the People’s Alliance for Democracy) and the Red Shirts (The United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship). He also spoke openly about the possibility of a Thai republic. His positions faced a large amount of hostility.
Notes and References
3 La Tribune,
– Pathom Vongsuravatana, consul de Thaïlande, 1992
– Pathom Vongsuravatana, docteur en droit de l’université de Bordeaux, 1957
– Dr Pathom Vongsuravatana (Wongsurawat) et Son Excellence la Cardinal Michai.
– Dr Pathom Vongsuravatana (Wongsurawat) et Sa Majesté le Roi de Thaïlande.
– Dr Pathom Vongsuravatana (Wongsurawat) et sa Sainteté le Pape Jean Paul II
– Carte de presse de Pathom Vongsuravatana.