Tommy Koh



Tommy Koh Thong Bee (b. 12 November, 1937, Singapore–) is an ambassador-at-large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a position he has held since 1990. Koh is a top-notch negotiator and a seasoned diplomat who is well known at home and abroad.1

Career
He was Singapore’s chief negotiator in the legal skirmish with Kuala Lumpur over reclamation works in Tuas and on Pulau Tekong. After two years of dispute, both countries successfully agreed on a resolution in January 2005.2

He is currently the special adviser of the Institute of Policy Studies. In 2007, he was appointed as chairman of the steering committee for the National University of Singapore (NUS)’s Faculty of Law which advises the dean and the NUS vice-chancellor. The committee also acts a liaison between NUS and the legal profession.3

Involvement in arts, heritage and environment
Koh is a keen patron of the arts, heritage and the environment. He was chairman of the National Heritage Board and of the Chinese Heritage Centre.4 He was also a board member of the Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay.5


His dedication to the cause of the environment has brought him the honour of being named as one of seven “Champions of the Earth” by the United Nations (UN) Environment Programme. He is the patron of the Nature Society (Singapore), co-chairman of the NUS Faculty of Law’s Asia-Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and chairman of the advisory committee of the master’s degree on Environmental Management at the NUS School of Design & Environment.6

In his free time, Koh practises qiqong, and enjoys music and reading.7

Education
1952–57: Raffles Institution
1961: University of Malaya (LLB, Hons.)
1964: Harvard University (LLM)
1965: Cambridge University (postgraduate diploma in criminology)8

Academic career
1962–64:
Assistant lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Singapore

1964–71: Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Singapore
1971–74: Associate professor and dean, Faculty of Law, University of Singapore
1977–: Professor of law, National University of Singapore
1994–95: Second Arthur & Frank Payne Visiting Professor, Institute for International Studies, Stanford University, US9

Positions held
1968–71: Permanent representative to the UN in New York (concurrently accredited as high commissioner to Canada)
1974–84: Permanent representative to the UN in New York (concurrently accredited as high commissioner to Canada and ambassador to Mexico)
1980–82: President, Third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea
1984–90: Ambassador to the United States
1990–92: Chairman, Preparatory Committee and Main Committee, UN Conference on Environment and Development
1990–97; 2000–04: Director, Institute of Policy Studies10
1991–96: Chairman, National Arts Council11
1993: UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to the Russian Federation, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia
1993–95: Member, UN High-Level Advisory Board on Sustainable Development
1993–96: Member, Earth Council
1994–2003: Director, DBS Bank12
2000–2006: Chairman, Chinese Heritage Centre
2002–2009: Chairman, National Heritage Board

Awards
1971: Public Service Star
1979: Meritorious Service Medal13
1982: Wolfgang Friedman Award, Columbia University Law School
1985: Jackson H. Ralston Prize, Stanford Law School
1985: Annual Award of the Asia Society, New York
1987: International Service Award, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, US
1987: Jit Trainor Award for Distinction in Diplomacy, Georgetown University, US14
1990: Distinguished Service Order Award15
1993: Commander, Order of the Golden Ark, The Netherlands
1996: Elizabeth Haub Prize for Environmental Law, University of Brussels
1997: Grand Cross of the Order of Bernardo O'Higgins, Chile
1998: Fok Ying Tung Southeast Asia Prize, Fok Ying Tung Foundation, Hong Kong
2000: Commander, First Class, of the Order of the Lion, Finland
2000: John Curtin Medal, Curtin University of Technology, Western Australia
2000: Grand Officer in the Order of Merit of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
2000: Distinguished Service to Arts Education, LASALLE-SIA College Award
2001: Officer in the Order  of the Legion of Honour, President of the French Republic
2003: Peace and Commerce Award, for efforts in building trade links with the United States16
2006: Champions of the Earth, United Nations Environment Programme17

Publications
1995: The United States and East Asia: Conflict and Co-operation18
1998: The Quest for World Order: Perspectives of a Pragmatic Idealist19
2000: Asia and Europe: Essays and Speeches by Tommy Koh20

Family
Father: Koh Han Kok
Mother: Tsai Ying
Wife: Poh Siew Aing (m. 1967)
Children: Two sons, Wei and Aun21



Author
Marsita Omar



References
1. Low, K. T. (Ed.). (2003). Who’s who in Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Publishing, pp. 185–187. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)
2. Lim, L. (2005, January 14). S’pore, KL to settle dispute. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. (n.d.). Tommy Koh [许通美]. Retrieved 2017, December 7 from Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy website: http://lkyspp2.nus.edu.sg/faculty/koh-tommy/
4. Low, K. T. (Ed.). (2003). Who’s who in Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Publishing, pp. 185–187. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)
5. 6 new board members for The Esplanade. (2000, December 13). The Business Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Tommy Koh is a Champion of the Earth. (2006, March 24). Today, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Low, K. T. (Ed.). (2003). Who’s who in Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Publishing, pp. 185–187. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)
8. Low, K. T. (Ed.). (2003). Who’s who in Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Publishing, pp. 185–187. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)
9. Low, K. T. (Ed.). (2003). Who’s who in Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Publishing, pp. 185–187. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)
10. Low, K. T. (Ed.). (2003). Who’s who in Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Publishing, pp. 185–187. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)
11. Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. (n.d.). Tommy Koh [许通美]. Retrieved 2017, December 7 from Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy website: http://lkyspp2.nus.edu.sg/faculty/koh-tommy/
12. Low, K. T. (Ed.). (2003). Who’s who in Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Publishing, pp. 185–187. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)
13. Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. (n.d.). Tommy Koh [许通美]. Retrieved 2017, December 7 from Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy website: http://lkyspp2.nus.edu.sg/faculty/koh-tommy/
14. Low, K. T. (Ed.). (2003). Who’s who in Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Publishing, pp. 185–187. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)
15. Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. (n. d.). Tommy Koh [许通美]. Retrieved 2017, December 7 from Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy website: http://lkyspp2.nus.edu.sg/faculty/koh-tommy/
16. Low, K. T. (Ed.). (2003). Who’s who in Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Publishing, pp. 185–187. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)
17. Tommy Koh is a Champion of the Earth. (2006, March 24). Today, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Koh, T. (1995). The United States and East Asia: Conflict and co-operation. Singapore: Times Academic Press. (Call no.: RSING 327.7305 KOH)
19. Koh, T. (1998). The quest for world order: Perspectives of a pragmatic idealist. Singapore: Times Academic Press. (Call no.: RSING 327.01 KOH)
20. Yeo, L. H., & Asad Latif. (Eds.). Asia and Europe: Essays and speeches by Tommy Koh. Singapore: World Scientific; Asia-Europe Foundation. (Call no.: RSING 337.405 KOH)
21. Low, K. T. (Ed.). (2003). Who’s who in Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Publishing, pp. 185–187. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)



The information in this article is valid as at 2007 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Personalities>>Biographies>>Political Leaders
Ambassadors--Singapore
Koh, Tommy T. B. (Tommy Thong Bee), 1937-
Law and government
Politicians
People and communities