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Tommy Koh Thong Bee (born 12 November 1937) BBM, DUNU (First Class), PJG, is a Singaporean international lawyer, professor, and diplomat. He was also Singapore's former Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Tommy Koh was awarded the Padma Shri which is the fourth highest civilian award in the Republic of India by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Tommy Koh Thong Bee

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi handing over the Padma Shri Award to veteran Singaporean diplomat Tommy Koh, at Istana - Presidential Palace, in Singapore.JPG
Born (1937-11-12) 12 November 1937 (age 81)
Diploma in Criminology
Alma materUniversity of Malaya
Harvard University
University of Cambridge
OccupationInternational lawyer, professor, and a diplomat
Known forFormer ambassador to the United Nations
Poh Siew Aing (m. 1967)
ChildrenWei Koh (son)
Aun Koh (son)
Tommy Koh
Simplified Chinese许通美


Early life and educationEdit

Koh was born in Singapore on 12 November 1937. His father was from Tong'an, Fujian province and his mother from Shanghai. He graduated from Raffles Institution and Serangoon Secondary School and received a LL.B. (First Class Honours) degree from the University of Malaya in Singapore (now National University of Singapore). He holds a LL.M. from Harvard University and a post-graduate Diploma in Criminology from Cambridge University. He was conferred a full professorship in 1977. Prof Koh was awarded honorary LL.D. degrees from Yale University and Monash University. He has also received awards from Columbia University, Stanford University, Georgetown University, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts), and Curtin University.


He is an international lawyer, professor and Ambassador-at-Large for the Government of Singapore. He presently serves as Special Adviser at the Singapore Institute of Policy Studies, Chairman of the National Heritage Board, Chairman of the Governing Board of the NUS Centre for International Law, and Rector of Tembusu College at the National University of Singapore. He is on secondment from the National University of Singapore Faculty of Law.[1]

He was President of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, 1980–1982. Lax and Sebenius present Koh and his efforts in getting the Convention passed, as an example of successful negotiating.[2] 1990 to 1992 he served as Chairman of the Main Committee of the UN Conference on Environment and Development, where he presided over the negotiations on Agenda 21. He has also served as Singapore's ambassador to the United Nations and the United States.

Koh was the first Executive Director of the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF), established in Singapore in 1997 by the countries of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM).

Professor Koh is currently a special advisor to the Institute of Policy Studies.[3]

On 9 August 2008, Koh was conferred with the Order of Nila Utama (First Class) by the Singapore Government, for his outstanding contributions in the Singapore legislative team representing Singapore, in the Pedra Branca dispute case with the Malaysian government.[4]

He is on the panel of mediators for Singapore International Mediation Centre.

Selected writingsEdit

  • Tommy Koh, A Constitution of the Oceans, UNCLOS December 1982, [1] accessed 20 May 2017
  • Tommy Koh, Five Years After Rio:Some Personal Reflections, UN Chronicle 1997, accessed at [2] 29 August 2006
  • Tommy T.B. Koh and Amitav Acharya (ed.), The Quest for World Order: Perspectives of a Pragmatic Idealist, Times Academic Press, Singapore, 1997 ISBN 981-210-108-X
  • Tommy Koh, Five Years After Rio:Some Personal Reflections, UN Chronicle 1997, accessed at [3] 29 August 2006
  • Tommy Koh. The Tommy Koh Reader: Favourite Essays and Lectures. World Scientific, 2013. p. 640. ISBN 978-981-4571-07-4.
  • Tommy Koh, Li Lin Chang and Joanna Koh. 50 Years of Singapore and the United Nations. World Scientific, 2015. p. 384. ISBN 978-981-4713-03-0.
  • Tommy Koh, Sharon Li-Lian Seah and Li Lin Chang. 50 Years of ASEAN and Singapore. World Scientific, 2017. p. 444. ISBN 9789813225121.
  • Tommy Koh and Li Lin Chang. The Little Red Dot. World Scientific, 2005. p. 504. ISBN 9789812564146.

Honours and awardsEdit


See alsoEdit

  • Practical idealism
  • Koh, Buck Song (1996), Interview with Professor Tommy Koh in The Arts in Singapore, 1996, Singapore: National Arts Council and Accent Communications.


  1. ^ Institute of Policy Studies, Tommy Koh biography.
  2. ^ David A. Lax and James K. Sebenius, "Thinking Coalitionally: Party Arithmetic, Process Opportunism, and Strategic Sequencing," in H. Peyton Young, ed. Negotiation Analysis. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991), pp. 153–194.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "NDP awards". Straits Times. 8 September 2008.
  5. ^ Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, "2009 Autumn Conferment of Decorations on Foreign Nationals," p. 2.
  6. ^ [[Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School and the Future of Diplomacy Project at Harvard Kennedy School (Cambridge, MA, USA)|Harvard Law School]], "The 2014 Great Negotiator Award Program"

External linksEdit