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November 27, 2008

14th Asean Summit:
Chaos in Thailand may force meeting to be rescheduled

Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam questioned on Wednesday Thailand's ability to host a regional summit next month because of the deepening political crisis in Bangkok, Reuters quoted a Cambodian official as saying.

Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said the prime ministers of the three countries, meeting in Vientiane, had formally asked the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) whether the meeting should be postponed.

"Laos Foreign Minister has sent an official letter to the Asean Secretariat today upon the three Prime Ministers' request to Asean to talk with Thailand if they should suspend the summit," Koy Kuong said.

"The letter also requests Asean’s Secretariat to talk with members of Asean countries whether the summit should be delayed to a later date amid Thailand's political crisis," he said.

In Singapore, state broadcaster Channel News Asia quoted Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo as saying that said there was "a cloud of uncertainty" over the upcoming Asean Summit in Thailand in December.

"We are very troubled by it. We hope that all groups in Thailand will have the political will to compromise and find a way out for the country. The tourism industry is badly affected. I worry that the Asean summit will be affected," he said.

The December 14-17 Asean meeting also includes the leaders of China, Japan, Australia, South Korea and India, and is expected to address regional measures to bolster the financial system and boost flagging economic growth.

The meeting had originally been scheduled to take place in Bangkok, but was switched to Chiang Mai because of trouble in the capital.

Meanwhile, Thai government has been unable to convene a joint house meeting to consider and endorse documents related to a number of Asean agreements to be signed as legislators could not enter the parliament which was blocked by anti-government protesters.

Asean Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan expressed his concern saying the delay in passing Asean pacts that the Thai government needs to sign will be a setback to community-building efforts.

At the summit, leaders from Asean and its partners are expected to sign some 30 documents which include the Chiang Mai Declaration on the Roadmap for an Asean Community 2009-2015, an important blueprint for forging a united Asean community.

Asean groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.

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