Pote Sarasin (Thai: พจน์ สารสิน, RTGS: Phot Sarasin, pronounced [pʰót sǎː.rā.sǐn]; 25 March 1905 – 28 September 2000) was a Thai diplomat and politician from the influential Sarasin family. He served as foreign minister from 1949 to 1950 and then served as ambassador to the United States. In September 1957 when Sarit Thanarat seized power in a military coup, he appointed Pote to be the acting prime minister. He resigned in December 1957. Pote also served as the first Secretary General of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization from September 1957 until 1963.
Pote Sarasin came from an old family of merchants and landowners. His father Thian Hee Sarasin (Thai: เทียนฮี้ สารสิน) was a doctor and rice dealer. Pote studied law at Wilbraham Academy in Wilbraham, Massachusetts and Middle Temple in London and was admitted to the English Bar. From 1933 to 1945, he practised as an attorney in Bangkok.
A close friend of the temporarily disempowered prime minister Phibunsongkhram (Phibun), Pote provided financial aid to the field marshal after his release from prison in 1946. In return Phibun had Pote appointed deputy minister of foreign affairs in 1948.
As foreign minister Pote was a wilful opponent of Phibun's attempts to recognise the French-backed Bảo Đại regime of Vietnam, a stance that had the full support of parliament, the press, and much of the government. Pote recognised Bảo Đại's lack of popular appeal and doubted the playboy-emperor's chance of success, and explained to a New York Times reporter that "if they [the Thais] backed Bảo Đại and he failed, the animosity of the people of the country Vietnam would be turned against the Siamese." In the end Phibun discarded months of Foreign Ministry recommendations and on 28 February issued formal recognition of the royal governments of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Embittered, Pote resigned. It was the only time a Thai foreign minister resigned on a matter of principle. Shortly afterward, he became ambassador to Washington once again.
On 21 September 1957, Sarit chose Pote to head the coup-installed government, mainly because the American-educated diplomat had good relations with the Americans. Under him largely free and fair elections were held in December. He resigned from the premiership that same month to resume his post as Secretary General of SEATO.
Pote Sarasin (first row-center)
Pote was a scion of the Sarasin family, one of Bangkok's oldest and wealthiest assimilated Chinese families. The Sarasins had always cultivated good relations with the bureaucratic elite of the 19th century, and by the early 1950s held substantial interests in real estate and rice trading. His father, Thian Hee (Chinese: 黄天喜, whose official title was Phraya Sarasinsawamiphakh), was the son of a traditional Chinese doctor and pharmacist who had immigrated from Hainan to Siam in the early 19th century.
Pote's sons are Pong, a leading businessman, Police General Pao, who once served as the Chief of the Royal Thai Police, and Arsa, who, like his father, was also one of the former foreign ministers of Thailand and was serving as the late King Bhumibol's Principal Private Secretary. All three sons–Pong, Arsa and Pao Sarasin had all served as the Deputy Prime Ministers of Thailand.