Former deputy prime minister and acting foreign minister of Thailand
MBA Full time 1984
Dr Sahas Bunditkul, former Deputy Prime Minister and acting Foreign Minister of Thailand, was among the first MBA class intake at the University of Leeds in 1983.
He started his professional career as a lecturer in Mechanical Engineering and then worked in various capacities in the railroad and petrochemical industries. His most challenging executive post was when he served as a Deputy Governor of Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, from 2000 to 2004, and as Deputy Prime Minister and Acting Foreign Minister of Thailand in 2008.
Why did you choose Leeds University Business School?
I wanted to become a top executive and to understand accountancy concepts so that I could bridge the gap between the engineering and financial side of business. The Leeds MBA was the programme for me.
What are your best memories of your time at Leeds?
Learning from department head, Professor Jack Butterworth and MBA programme director, Professor John Hayes, along with the shared experiences of my classmates were really valuable to me. As I was a senior staff member of the State Railway of Thailand at that time, I was also provided with a free first-class rail pass from British Rail, which I still keep as a remembrance. I went all over the UK in my spare time.
What has been the highlight of your career?
The highlight of my career was serving as Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand in 2008. I had to oversee six ministries and was also acting Minister of Foreign Affairs for a period of time. I participated in various international meetings and negotiations, such as at the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), and had an opportunity to address the podium in the main assembly hall of the United Nations in New York.
I met with many world leaders, including US President George W. Bush, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, amongst others. When President George Bush visited Thailand we discussed a ‘Royal Initiative’ in Thailand, a project to reduce the amount of opium produced in Thailand without using force. The project was successful in encouraging producers to switch from opium to fruit and vegetable production. The President was so keen for his team to hear about this, he immediately called everyone to attention by clinking his glass and briefed the room about the project; advising his team to apply this strategy across the world, something I wasn’t expecting, but a very proud moment.
What advice do you have for current students or alumni wishing to pursue a similar career?
I have a philosophy about life that I have learnt from nature that is “don’t be a hornet that tries to pass a glass window”. A hornet has quite a powerful sting but finally it will die at the bottom of the window frame if it tries to charge forward. However if it moves backward and looks around there may be an open window nearby to fly out. So in life and business you may be quite confident and sure that you are absolutely right but I think it is wise to learn how to step back and look around before making a final decision.