Books can have a huge influence over one’s path in life. For Adisak Panupong, Thailand’s former ambassador to Austria, his love for reading and the things he has read shaped the diplomat into who we know today. Adisak doesn’t simply like to read—he loves it. And while he is open to everything from politics and economics to social and light reading, his particular interest is history.
“I do lean towards more historical books, be they on foreign or Thai history. To be a good diplomat you need to have a well-rounded knowledge in many fields and subjects, both about your country and the countries that you could possibly be posted to. The two key figures that inspired me to become interested in foreign history are Leopold Von Ranke, a German historian, and the Greek historian Herodotus. I also read Thai history by the likes of Sujit Wongted, Nidhi Eoseewong, Krairoek Nana and Chit Phumisak. This newer generation of historians is critical in their research rather than wholeheartedly believing everything written by their predecessors. In the past five to six years I’ve been reading more books on the late King Rama IX. Not just biography, but everything to do with him, from books on the royal projects to writings by foreigners and the Thai ministries.”
A book that profoundly influenced him is the royal composition by King Chulalongkorn known as Klai Baan. “I’ve read it since I was young and it was a text that influenced me to become a diplomat. Not only do I read it for personal enjoyment, Klai Baan has also proven very useful to my profession. It made me realise that to be a diplomat is to help look after the country’s best interests so that we are internationally accepted and can stand as equals amongst other nations. One can see that King Rama V paid great attention to international relations and foreign affairs. In the book there are chapters that incorporate his knowledge of the important places he visited and the diplomatic meetings he had with foreign royalty. The book provides insights into his visions that protected our nation from colonisation.”
Adisak also has advice on how to cultivate good reading habits. “Society is much more competitive nowadays, but reading is still necessary. Find topics you’re interested in and read up on them. Read beyond your everyday life so that you know more about your country from different aspects and about the outside world. Don’t be lazy because this knowledge is a resource that you carry around with you. I sympathise with the younger generation because they have many more distractions today. But make time to read and become an expert in your field of interest.”