Niels Kaas Dyrlund, Danish Ambassador in Bangkok from 1997 to 2001 and prior to that from 1994 to 1997 in Singapore, died on Sunday 14 November after a short battle against a serious illness. Born on 14 July 1941, Niels K. Dyrlund was only 69 years old. Niels Kaas Dyrlund leaves behind his wife Birgit and the couple’s two sons, Christian and Michael.
Dyrlund’s remarkable period as Ambassador of Denmark in South East Asia started with his appointment in 1994 as Ambassador to Singapore with accreditation also in Brunei. He and his wife Birgit were immediately adopted by the Danish community. Niels Dyrlund’s sharp intellect and great sense of humor made him equally successful at creating business opportunities for the Danish companies in Singapore as establising social networking opportunities at the two central institutions for the Danes in Singapore, the Danish Seamen’s Church and the Danish Business Association Singapore, both at that time only recently established. At the embassy, he formed a strong team with among others Consul Ulrik Holt Sorensen.
In 1997 it was time to move on. In Singapore, he was replaced by Ambassador Jørgen Ørstrøm Møller and on 1 September 1997, Niels K. Dyrlund took up his position as Ambassador of Denmark to Thailand with accreditation also to Cambodia and Myanmar.
The Danish business community was introduced to their new Ambassador in an interview with Thai-Danish Trade News where Niels Dyrlund – apart from displaying an intimate knowledge of political and economic affairs in Thailand – made it a point that he did not come alone.
“Birgit and I are a team. That has always been important to us,” he said.
He added that he hoped they would soon enjoy equally good relations with members of the Danish Thai Chamber of Commerce and the Scandinavian Society Siam as he and Birgit had enjoyed with the Danes in Singapore.
That wish became so true.
At the Embassy in Bangkok, Dyrlund soon formed a strong team with Economic and Commercial Counselor Henrik Petersen. Two years later, in September, this team concluded among other things commercial contracts between different Thai government agencies and Danish companies worth a total of 2,6 Billion baht during one single week.
One year on, in 2000, the new wing at the Embassy was opened and then all attention centered on the big event planned for 2001. That year, in February 2001, Dyrlund’s time in Bangkok culminated with the State Visit by Her majesty Queen Margrethe II and HRH Prince Henrik accompanied by HRH Crown Prince Frederik.
Later in 2001, Niels K. Dyrlund was promoted to Head of Protocol at the Danish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. It was a sad departure for the Danes in Thailand. Then DTCC President Tom Sorensen noted in an Open Farewell Letter to Niels K. Dyrlund among others:
“You and your wife Birgit will be leaving a very empty space in all of us. We have been extremely proud of having you as the finest representative of our country. On behalf of the Board of Directors and all members of the Danish-Thai Chamber of Commerce I wish to express our gratitude for the outstanding support and hospitality you have extended to our business community in Thailand.”
From Bangkok, Dyrlund went back to Copenhagen, where he took over as Head of Protocol the same year as the 11 September terror attack on the United States changed security arrangements around international events forever. Shortly after, a big task for his department was to manage protocol around the Copenhagen Summit of EU countries in December 2002 where the negotiations about the accession to the EU of ten countries Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta took place.
In 2004, Niels Dyrlund was posted abroad again for his final posting as Ambassador of Denmark, this time in Helsinki, Finland. As could be expected, it didnt take long before suddenly news about new Finnish Danish initiatives started to pop up in the media. But when the big Climate Conference was about to take place, he was called back to assist with part of the enormous task of the Protocol Department.
Niels Dyrlund entered his well deserved retirement in January this year. But less than six months later, during an internal “Local Forum Summit” in Copenhagen in June, Dyrlund was offered to continue in a special function as “Mediator for Locally Employed Staff”. In this position he would serve as a neutral and confidential mediator in work-related disputes brought forward by locally employed staff at Danish representations around the world. Niels Dyrlund accepted this role because it was clear to him that locally employed personnel today play an increasingly important part of the Foreign Service. Not only are their numbers increasing – the functions performed by them are also increasingly demanding.
This year, in June 2010, Dyrlund was a special speaker at the graduation ceremony of his old school, Bagsværd Kostskole and Gymnasium where he and other classmates were celebrating their 50 year anniversary. In his speech he touched a upon the tremendous change his generation had witnessed.
Born during the Second World War, Dyrlund’s first idea had been to gun for a military career. But with the rank of Lieutenant he changed his path. Instead he graduated in Law from the University of Copenhagen in 1968. Immediately after he entered the foreign service as a Secretary in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Copenhagen, although he kept his affiliation with the University where he for several years remained a tutor in International Law.
In 1971, Dyrlund was appointed vice consul at the Consulate General of Denmark in Chicago, following a year as a Fellow at Princeton University in the United States.
After a four year period back in Copenhagen, he was in 1979 appointed Counselor at the UN mission in New York, where he was Denmark’s representative in several humanitarian and social committees.
From there he served in several career positions back at the Ministry in Copenhagen before in 1989 he was appointed Minister Counselor at the Royal Danish Embassy in Washington D.C. This was his latest posting before his seven remarkable years representing Denmark in South East Asia.
My own most surprising encounter with Niels Dyrlund was not in his role as an Ambasador. We met at the staging of a theatre play that could best be described as “alternative”. The stage was definitely alternative – we were all sitting on chairs arranged in a circle in a naked room – and there were only Thai actors and no foreign audience at all. Suddenly I noticed Niels Dyrlund sitting three seats to my right!
After the play we talked. But not about the obvious. I didn’t ask him and he didn’t ask me what on earth we were doing there. Instead he talked about how he found it interesting the way the actors had communicated individually with several members of the audience and that he had enjoyed for once not to be singled out for attention just because he was foreigner. Then he excused himself.
The news of Niels Dyrlund’s death has come as shock to the many friends that he and Birgit had both in Singapore and Bangkok. Niels had just reached his retirement age which should have given the couple more time to come on more frequent visits for a dinner and a game of golf. It is sad that this will now not be the case.
Niels, our thoughts go to your bereaved family. May your soul rest in peace.
Funeral of Ambassador Niels Kaas Dyrlund takes place 24 November 2010