I have received this interesting reflection from New Mandala reader and long-time Southeast Asia commentator Johpa. Judy Stowe passed away on 13 September 2007.

It has very recently come to my attention that one of the really great “old Thai Hands” passed away last month, Ms. Judy Stowe. For many who lived in Southeast Asia, they will remember her as the voice of the BBC covering Southeast Asian affairs. She worked as a journalist and in effect headed the BBC’s Southeast Asian Department. She spoke most of the region’s major languages and was well known for working on translations with Vietnamese colleagues.

She was less well known as the UK government’s back channel communication line to the Thai Royal Family, both in Bangkok and when Royalty visited London. I met her in 1999 at the “victory dinner” in London for the Godfrey vs Demon Internet libel case where she too was to have been a witness in court for the plaintiff. I was not the only guy at that dinner table wishing that I had met her when I was younger and also wishing we were closer in age as she was a real charmer. Her story about having to go over and tell the Crown Prince, who had been sent into temporary exile near London, that he needed to better behave in order to be a proper neighbor in British society had all of us laughing in tears. Her comments upon some of the other Royals would have made Handley look like a hagiographer.

I have met many remarkable men and women in my travels over the decades, but few that both impressed and entertained me as did those few hours with Ms Stowe. I do hope that she has possibly written a memoir of her years in Southeast Asia.

Here is a link to a brief obituary in The Nation:

Readers hoping to learn more about Judy Stowe’s remarkable life will find more details in these obituaries from The Independent and from the BBC (in Vietnamese).