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3 May 2009

Thailand assures Asian leaders over rescheduled summit

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Thailand Saturday sought to reassure Asian leaders that a regional summit to be rescheduled and held on the southern isle of Phuket would not end in chaos as an earlier meeting did in April, reported AFP.

The summit of leaders from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations and six dialogue partners was abruptly cancelled last month after anti-government protesters stormed the venue in the coastal city of Pattaya.

But the Thai government has insisted it will reschedule the summit.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said Saturday the luxury tourist resort Phuket would be a safe destination for talks as the Democrat-led administration enjoys stronger support in the south.

"I believe there will be no protest as the meeting will be held in Phuket where local people, along with those in other parts of the south... want the meeting to be a success," Suthep told reporters as he toured possible venues.

But he admitted the army would be drafted in to provide security for the summit in a bid to reassure Asian leaders.

"The defence ministry will be responsible for security matters to assure the security of leaders," he said.

The Asean summit with key partners China, South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and India, was due to meet April 11-12 for a series of meetings in Pattaya city.

But before the summit could begin supporters of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup, rallied in the seaside city and stormed the meeting venues.

A state of emergency was imposed briefly by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva while foreign leaders were urgently ferried to safety by helicopter, boat and car.

Thailand's national police chief has since transferred two high-ranking officers held responsible for the failed security and begun an investigation into the debacle.

The Asean meetings were originally due to be held in Bangkok in December and the Pattaya summit was only scheduled after numerous date and venue changes caused by months of political protests by rival groups in the kingdom.

Meanwhile, Thai News Agency quoted Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva as saying he is unworried about the protest planned by anti-government demonstrators before next week's regional health ministers meeting on influenza A (H1N1) to be hosted by Thailand.

The prime minister said that deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban would direct security measures for the Asean public health ministers meeting in Bangkok Thursday and Friday May 7-8.

Abhisit said he believed the regional influenza meeting will benefit the country and help the world community understand (the political situation in Thailand). 




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