Tommy Koh

Tommy Koh, also known as 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. Tommy Koh is a top-notch negotiator and one of Singapore's senior diplomat who is well known at home and abroad. He was Singapore's chief negotiator in the legal skirmish with Kuala Lumpur over reclamation works at Tuas and Tekong. After two years of dispute, both countries successfully agreed on a resolution in January 2005. Tommy Koh is also a think-tank on international relations. Tommy Koh is currently the Chairman of the Institute of Policy Studies and chairs the Steering Committee for the NUS Faculty of Law to advise the Dean and the NUS Vice-Chancellor. The Committee also acts a liaison between NUS and the legal profession.

Tommy Koh is a keen patron of the arts, heritage and the environment. He is the Chairman of the National Heritage Board and of the Chinese Heritage Centre.  He is also a Board Member of the Esplanade. As a renowned diplomat, Tommy Koh tries to raise the international profile of Singapore's arts. 

Tommy Koh's dedication to the cause of the environment has recently brought him the honour of being named as one of seven Champions of the Earth by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).  At home, he is the patron of The Nature Society, Co-Chairman of the NUS Faculty of Laws Asia-Pacific Centre for Environmental Law, and Chairman of the Advisory Committee of the Masters degree on Environmental Management at the NUS School of Design & Environment.

At his own time, Tommy Koh practices Qiqong, and enjoys music and reading.

Primary Schools: Kong Shan, St. Josephs Institution, Outram.
1952-1957: Raffles Institution
1961 : University of Malaya (LLB, 1st Class Honours)
1964 : Harvard University (LLM)
1965 : Cambridge University (Postgraduate Diploma in Criminology)
1984 : Yale University, (LLD, Honoris Causa)

Academic Career
1962-1964 : Assistant Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Singapore
1964-1971 : Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Singapore
1971-1974 : Associate Professor and Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Singapore
1977-    : Professor of Law, National University of Singapore
1994-1995 : Second Arthur & Frank Payne Visiting Professor, Institute for International Studies,  Stanford University, USA.

Offices 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
1984-1990 : Ambassador to the United States
1990-1992 : Chairman, Preparatory Committee and Main Committee, UN Conference on Environment and Development
1990-1997; Dec 2000 Jul 2004 : Director, Institute of Policy Studies
1991-96 : Chairman, National Arts Council
1993, Aug Sep : UN Secretary-Generals Special Envoy to the Russian Federation, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia
1993-1995 : Member, UN's High-Level Advisory Board on Sustainable Development
1993-1996 : Member, the Earth Council
1996 -        : Patron, Asia-Pacific Centre for Environmental Law (APCEL)
1994-2003 : Director, DBS Bank
1997-2000 : Executive Director, Asia-Europe Foundation

Current Positions
Board of Directors, Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Georgetown University
Member, International Advisory Committees, Korean Federation of Industries
Board Member, The Esplanade.
Patron, The Nature Society (Singapore), The Substation
Honorary Life Member, Photographic Society of Singapore

1971 : Public Service Star
1979 : Meritorious Service Medal
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, USA
1987 : Jit Trainor Award for Distinction in Diplomacy, Georgetown University, USA
1990 : Distinguished Service Order Award
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
29 May 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 at building trade links with the United States
12 May 2004 : Outstanding Service Award, National University of Singapore
24 May 2004 : Encomienda of Isabel la Catolica from His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain
2006 : (One of seven) Champions of the Earth, United Nations Environment Programme

1995 : The United States and East Asia: Conflict and co-operation.
1998 : The Quest for World Order
2000 : Asia and Europe: Essays and speeches
2005 : The little red dot: Reflections by Singapore's diplomats

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

Marsita Omar

Koh, T. B.  (1996). The United States and East Asia: Conflict and co-operation (p. vi). Singapore: Times Academic Press.
(Call no.: RSING 327.7305 KOH)

Low, K. T. (Ed.). ( 2003). Whos who in Singapore (pp. 185-187). Singapore: Who's Who Publishing.
(Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)

Yeo, L. H., &  Asad Latif.  (Eds.). (2000). Asia and Europe: Essays and speeches by Tommy Koh (pp ix-xii). Singapore: Asia-Europe Foundation.
(Call no.: RSING 337.405 KOH)

Asad Latif. (2004, December 7). US losing its influence in S-E-Asia. The Straits Times.

Sim, L. (2005, January 14). Spore, KL to settle dispute. The Straits Times.

Whos who on the 15-member National Arts Council. (1991, August 25). The Straits Times, p. 16.

Esplanade. (2005). Corporate  - about us. Retrieved February 5, 2007, from

International Council of Environmental Law. (n.d.). Prizes. Retrieved February 5, 2007, from

Koh, T. (2006, June 15).  Acceptance speech. Retrieved February 5, 2007, from Institute of  Policy Studies Website:

Koh, T. (2001, June 29). Why do Asians and Americans often misunderstand each other?.  Retrieved February 5, 2007, from Institute of  Policy Studies Website:

Old Rafflesians' Association. (2005). ORA: Old Rafflesians' Association. Professor Tommy Koh Thong Bee. Retrieved February 5, 2007, from

SingTel. (n.d.). Board & Management. Board of Directors. Retrieved February 5, 2007, from

Stanford University. (1994). News release. Havel to deliver Ralston lecture, hold news conference. Retrieved February 5, 2007, from


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.

Personalities>>Biographies>>Political Leaders
Koh, Tommy T. B. (Tommy Thong Bee), 1937-
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