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Thailand Ignores Protests, Focuses on ASEAN Business

Leaders of southeast Asian nations have gathered in Thailand's coastal town of Pattaya for the beginning of a three-day regional summit aimed at finding ways out of the economic slowdown.

During a working dinner Friday, senior officials of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, expressed concern over regional tensions caused by North Korea's rocket launch last Sunday.

The full summit begins Saturday at the Pattaya Exhibition and Convention Center and will include China, India, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan, for a total of 16 nations.

Participants hope to finalize details of a $120 billion regional currency pool to help avoid future financial crises. ASEAN nations say they will contribute about $24 billion to the reserve.

ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan said Friday that South Korea has agreed to match ASEAN's 20 percent contribution to the currency pool.

Finance ministers of the member nations: Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam - agreed at a meeting Thursday on the amount each bloc member will contribute to the reserve fund.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva also met for bilateral talks Friday. They said their two countries will expand economic ties and cooperate in developing clean energy sources.

Mr. Abhisit also met his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen Friday to discuss last week's Thai-Cambodian border clashes that killed two Thais.

The 16 Asian nations meeting at the ASEAN summit represent nearly half the world's population.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.