THIS morning, Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister Senator Gareth Evans will have settled himself in Bangkok for the annual ASEAN foreign ministers conference preparing for another round of briefings and meetings. But, in Asia and his native Australia, the fiery Mr Evans is as well-known for his gaffes as for his triumphs. His latest blunder came after he revealed that the human remains discovered in a search in Cambodia were thought to be those of former residents of Hong Kong's Lamma, Dominic Chappell, his girlfriend Kellie Wilkinson and their British friend Tina Dominy. Mr Evans' role in linking the find to the missing trio, earned him a slating in the territory and abroad from those who feared for other lives in the guerilla-held region. The bearded diplomat was already known in the territory for another pair of notorious slip-ups which added to a lengthy catalogue of ''best forgotten moments''. There was the Hong Kong Asia Society luncheon speech in March, when he was asked about the fate of an Australian citizen who has languished in a Shenzhen jail since October 1993. The case of James Peng Jiandong, of personal concern to the 20,000-odd Australian passport holders in Hong Kong, apparently slipped the mind of the foreign affairs guru. Within minutes of the lunch, the senator was brought up to date by staff from Hong Kong's Australian Consulate, who insisted their minister was simply too busy to take all their briefings before the lunch speech. Arguably, Mr Evans' most well-remembered remark in Hong Kong had nothing to do with diplomacy and everything to do with a knack for knockabout Australian humour. A much-loved pet dog from the household of Governor Chris Patten was missing for several days and the Pattens were sharing their concerns with the newspaper-reading public of Hong Kong. The canine caper was in full swing as Mr Evans touched down in Hong Kong in 1992 to do his diplomatic best to build Australian-Asian ties. Hearing about the four-legged stray, he asked whether Government House staff had checked the nearest Chinese restaurant for any sign of Soda. ''They'll turn it into hors-d'oeuvres for Deng Xiaoping, who I am told eats four puppies a day,'' he quipped. The infamous one-liner was to dog the senator on his return to Australia, working its way into antipodean political folklore. Mr Evans became the brunt of a late-night comedy show which staged its own version of the event, ending with an Evans lookalike tumbling, inebriated, from his chair. At the age of 43 and reputed to have an eye on the office of prime minister, colleagues now report a limited softening of the bristly attitude - which was at its full, prickly strength after his hors-d'oeuvres remarks received an airing in the press. He lambasted the media for reporting his remark and was forced to apologise to the Australian Parliament. ''To say someone eats dog is very likely to be regarded a compliment,'' he insisted. ''Dog just happens to be a very sophisticated and highly regarded item of Chinese cuisine - whatever we might think about that,'' Mr Evans said. ''I find it impossible to believe that there would have been offence.'' The Evans wrath is not to be taken lightly, according to shaken journalists and some of the senator's own staff and colleagues, who report incidents of doors slammed and wrenched off their hinges, a heavy folder turfed across a room and office implements and ashtrays flying dangerously across an office. THE senator found himself caught in an emotional flare-up across Australia after a government decision to dam a picturesque river in the southern state of Tasmania. Senator Evans admitted he was given the go-ahead for ''spy flights'' over the area and was howled down in series of Biggles jokes. It was also a period which launched the classic phrase: ''It seemed like a good idea at the time.'' His brand of diplomacy has embroiled him in sticky situations but has also won him the occasional high honour. Mr Evans' efforts to negotiate a Cambodian peace settlement earned him a Nobel Prize nomination and, late last year, he was touted as a future successor to Dr Boutros Boutros-Ghali as secretary-general of the United Nations. His enviable academic background - as an Oxford scholar, lecturer in constitutional law and Queens' Counsel in his late 30s - jars with a reputation for temper tantrums, saying the wrong thing at the wrong time and acting on sometimes-questionable instincts. ''What gets you into politics?'' he mused recently. ''It's a mixture of megalomania and idealism. It's just the proportions that vary.'' Senator Evans' ambitions are widely known and his future is constantly under speculation. He is sporadically held up to ridicule or in exasperation in cases such as the hors-d'oeuvres remark, the Australian Government's perceived helplessness over the James Peng Jiandong jailing and now the Cambodian kidnappings of three young adults. But whether he aims to climb his way to the top in the international community, through the United Nations, or switch to Australia's lower house to set his cap for prime ministerial office, few can tell. The senator, apparently unable to bite his tongue on some issues, will not be drawn on his designs for Australia's top political post. ''That's all rumour,'' said a Canberra spokesman yesterday. ''He has consistently neither confirmed nor denied that.''