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Tommy Koh (full name Tommy Thong-Bee Koh or Tommy Koh Thong Bee, 许通美; 許通美) (born 12 November 1937) BBM, DUNU (First Class), PJG, is an international lawyer, professor and diplomat from Singapore. He was also a former ambassador to the United Nations.

Early life and education[]

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 writings[]

  • 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 Template:ISBN
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Honours and awards[]

  • 1961 : Adrian Clarke Memorial Medal, University of Malaya (Singapore)
  • 1961 : Leow Chia Heng Prize, University of Malaya (Singapore)
  • 1971 : Public Service Star (Bintang Bakti Masyarakat), Singapore
  • 1979 : Meritorious Service Medal (Pingat Jasa Gemilang), Singapore
  • 1984 : Wolfgang Friedman Award, Columbia University Law School, New York
  • 1984 : Honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D), Yale University, Connecticut
  • 1985 : Jackson H. Ralston Prize, Stanford Law School, California
  • 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 (Darjah Utama Bakti Cemerlang), Singapore
  • 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
  • 1998 : Fok Ying Tung Southeast Asia Prize, Fok Ying Tung Foundation, Hong Kong (29 May)
  • 2000 : Commander, First Class, of the Order of the Lion of Finland
  • 2000 : John Curtin Medal, Curtin University of Technology, Western Australia
  • 2000 : Grand Officer, Order of Merit of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
  • 2000 : Distinguished Service to Arts Education, LASALLE-SIA College Award
  • 2001 : Officer in the Légion d'honneur, President of the French Republic
  • 2003 : Peace and Commerce Award for efforts at building trade links with the United States
  • 2004 : Outstanding Service Award, National University of Singapore on 12 May
  • 2004 : Encomienda of Isabel la Catolica, from His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain on 24 May
  • 2006 : Champions of the Earth, United Nations Environment Programme
  • 2007 : Tatler Leadership Award for Lifetime Achievement, Singapore Tatler magazine
  • 2008 : Order of Nila Utama (First Class)
  • 2009: Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, 2009 (Japan).[5]
  • 2014: Great Negotiator Award, 2014 (Harvard Law School/Harvard Kennedy School).[6]
  • 2018 : Padma Shri Award, India's fourth highest civilian honour


See also[]

  • Tommy Koh's views on homosexuality
  • 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.
  4. Template:Cite news
  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 links[]

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