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Protests force Thai govt to move venue

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October 30, 2008

Asean Summit:
Protests force Thai govt to move venue

Thailand's government has moved the venue from the nest Asean summit from Bangkok to the northern city of Chiang Mai, agencies reported.

Anti-government protesters from the People's Alliance for Democracy have occupied the prime minister's offices in Bangkok since late August, and have rebuffed government pleas for them to leave to avoid embarrassment during the summit.

Government officials have insisted the change of venue is linked to the better climate, cooler climate in the north.

Thailand is currently chair of Asean, which comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Talks will also be held with Chinese, Japanese and South Korean leaders during the December summit.

The agenda is expected to focus heavily on how Asia can deal with the global financial crisis and stave off a recession.

In a related report, local daily the Nation said the Asean business community has voiced concerns over the plan to move the venue, saying the change would prevent the annual Asean Business & Investment Summit (Asean-Bis) from providing maximum benefits to the region.

The paper quoted Arin Jira, chairman of the Asean Business Advisory Council which hosts the side event, as suggesting if the government was so concerned with security in Bangkok, it should postpone the summit instead.

"Changing the venue would disrupt the Asean-Bis, which has been prepared for about eight months. The event cannot be moved to Chiang Mai as it involves the relocation of 400-500 participants.

"And it's not working to have leaders at the event, only to see them leave for Chiang Mai the next day for the Summit," he said.

In another report, Reuters quoted an unnamed Bangkok-based diplomat as complaining that, "This is a massive pain in the backside," one Bangkok-based diplomat said. "None of this has been budgeted for and how are we going to get hotel rooms at this time of year? We're going to be sharing rooms and sleeping on the floor."

Bangkok-based diplomats are fuming at the abrupt switch for the summit, which coincides with the height of the tourist season, the report said.

Coming at such short notice, it is hard to see a city with a population of 200,000 finding enough beds to cope with the influx of thousands of government officials and foreign media.

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