Thai Government Upheaval Forces Postponement of ASEAN Summit



Thailand has postponed a meeting of Southeast Asian leaders, which was to begin later this month, after a court ruled that the Thai prime minister and his party are banned from politics. Anti-government activists in Thailand have agreed to end protests that have paralyzed Bangkok's airports, after Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat accepted a court ruling barring him from politics. VOA's Kate Pound Dawson reports from Bangkok. 

The annual summit meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations now will be held in March.  The gathering had been scheduled to start preliminary meetings December 13.  Heads of government were to start discussions on the 15.

The Thai government announced the postponement shortly after a constitutional court ruled that Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat and his People Power Party would be banned from politics for election law violations.  An interim government will operate until members of parliament can select a new prime minister.

Summit delay could complicate charter efforts

Thitinan Pongsudhirak is an international relations professor at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. He says the delay could complicate ASEAN's efforts to finalize its first charter. The charter aims to create an ASEAN community that would more closely integrate the 10 members.

"This is something that ASEAN sees as its way of integration and going forward into the global arena.  But the postponement will hinder this process and there will be questions from Thailand's neighbors in ASEAN whether Thailand is prepared to the host, the chair of ASEAN in the next 18 months," said Thitinan.

Airport closure bothersome for Thailand's neighbors

The closure of Bangkok's two airports by anti-government protesters already has caused some strain between Thailand and its neighbors. The international airport is one of the largest in the world and serves as an important transit hub for dozens of flights into and out of Southeast Asia.

Thitinan says the closure adds to the strain on Thailand's regional reputation.
"Because Thailand has been such a nexus of transport in the region, it certainly has affected relations with its neighbors and it also would hinder trade and investment prospects because Thailand plays such a key role as a hub," said Thitinan.

Tourists stranded, flights canceled because of protests

The week-long blockade of the airports has stranded hundreds of thousands of travelers and forced hundreds of flights to be rerouted or canceled. Thitinan says the closure also caused friction with some European countries, because so many of their citizens have been stranded.  Although the protesters agreed to end the blockades, Tuesday, airport authorities say it will be days before full operations resume.

The protesters, led by the People's Alliance for Democracy, demanded Mr. Somchai's ouster before they would consider ending the blockades.  They accuse him of acting as a proxy for his brother-in-law, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.  Mr. Shinawatra was ousted in a coup, two years ago, and has fled the country to avoid corruption charges.

ASEAN'S other nine members are: Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam. 

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs