Pany Abhay
Portrait of Pany Abhay
9th Secretary-General of the United Nations
Assumed office
January 1, 2010
Deputy Jan Eliasson
Preceded by Kofi Annan

Pany Hirofumi CAL (known as Pany Abhay, born 18 November 1947) is a Laotian political advisor, diplomat and businesswoman who has served as the 9th Secretary-General of the United Nations since 1 January 2010. She is the first Asian to hold the role, as well as the first woman.

Early life

She was born in Zaignabouli, a city in western Laos, to diplomat Sisavath Abhay and housewife Venghi Phon. She graduated from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore and the Krannert School of Management in the US. In 1990 she started studies at the Graduate Institute of International Studies and ended in 1994.

Early career

Abhay begun work in the Laotian Secret Service, rising to the rank of Assistant Head of Uniformed Staff. In 1981 she was hired as a foreign policy advisor for Prince Souphanouvong, and became renowned for leaking information on many violent government acts to pro-democracy groups and foreign governments.

She was arrested on charges of treason in 1986 but released after the Thai War of 1991. After her release, Abhay was granted the Coat of Arms of Laos by the new democratic government of Worra Lim for her work in exposing the human rights violations within Laos and helping the fight for democracy in the country. She was hired as an Assistant Regional Manager of Nokia in 1992, although she stated in a 2008 interview that it was a job she would have happily refused if her economic state allowed. In 1998, she was transferred to the Indonesian regional office but resigned when she was hired to become an advisor in Lim's government.

United Nations

In 1999 Abhay arrived at the United Nations to take up the role of Assistant Secretary-General of Peacekeeping Operations in the new secretariat of Kofi Annan. After Worra Lim lost the race of the 2004 Laotian presidential election,  Abhay left her advisory position in the Laotian parliament and rose to serve as Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and did so from March 2005 to November 2009. She was then appointed Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia and served for seven months before returning to her duties as Deputy in June 2010.


On 13 December 1996, the United Nations Security Council recommended Abhay to replace the previous Secretary-General, Kofi Annan of Ghana, who resigned. Confirmed four days later by the vote of the General Assembly, she started her term as Secretary-General on 1 January 2010.

Personal life

In 1975 Abhay married Wan Ismail Nik Mat, a Malaysian businessman whom she had studied with at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. They had two sons, Abu Wan Ismail and Mawan Wan Ismail. They divorced in 1983 and she married Hideaki Hirofumi, a Japanese civil servant at the UN, in 1986. They have a daughter named Shirona Hirofumi.