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Protests Force Thailand to Cancel ASEAN Summit

  • Ron Corben

The Thai Government has canceled a summit of leaders from the Association of South East Asian Nations - ASEAN - after anti-government protesters blocked the meeting venue at the seaside resort of Pattaya. The government has declared a stage of emergency over the province.

The 10-nation ASEAN summit was intended to include the leadership from China, Japan, South Korea as well as Australia, New Zealand and India. But it was abruptly canceled Saturday as protesters breached security forces, breaking through glass doors.

The protests, which follows three days of anti-government demonstrations in the capital Bangkok, occurred despite increased security Saturday by the Thai Government.

Moments before the protesters crashed into the summit venue, government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said he was confident the meeting would proceed despite earlier delays.

"The ASEAN summit was slightly delayed this morning due to certain safety reasons in certain locations. Not in the hotel, not in the meeting places but in the surrounding areas far away from the meeting places," said Panitan. "Although at the meeting places there are some demonstrations but the authorities and the agencies in-charge are able to put the situation under control."

The latest turmoil creates a problem for Thailand, the current leader of the ASEAN regional economic bloc. A similar summit was postponement last December due to Thailand's political uncertainties. An earlier meeting of the regional leaders occurred in February, with the latest gathering to include key ASEAN regional dialogue partners.

The summit's cancellation also marks a major set back for the three month old government of Mr. Abhisit which had been informing international audiences the country had settled down after political uncertainty last year.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who had been due to attend the summit, said in a statement he regretted the postponement of the meetings but hoped for a return to normalcy and settlement of differences through dialogue.

Rallies last year were led by anti-Thaksin protesters, opposing a pro-Thaksin government elected in December 2007. The protesters had occupied government buildings and forced the closure of major airports hitting the country's tourism industry.

The summit had been scheduled to discuss the region's economic concerns, trade and food security. Regional leaders were also expected to sign an ASEAN China investment pact and meet with Japan, South Korea and China to discuss security on the Korean Peninsular.

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