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 12 Apr 2009

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Thailand in quandary after failed summit

Rumours of a military coup and House dissolution spread in Thailand after anti-government red-shirt protesters stormed the venue of top level summits between Asean and its dialogue partners in Pattaya Saturday, forcing the abrupt cancellation of the summits.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva declared state of emergency in the seaside resort east of capital Bangkok only after the protesters smashed their way past police and military barricades into the luxurious Royal Cliff Beach Resort.

This prompted speculations of a coup as it appeared that the government had lacked cooperation from police and military in preventing the protesters from entering the summit venue’s compound.

In a press conference announcing the lifting of the state of emergency imposed six hours earlier, Abhisit did not explain the failure of security arrangements but called the red-shirts "public enemies" for declaring a victory over the cancellation of the summits.

"In this loss to the country, anyone or any group of people that announces a victory should be regarded as true enemies of Thailand. Whatever status I have, I will never allow these people to become influential," he was quoted as saying by a local daily.

The Nation newspaper, citing a source in the government, reported that an important decision would be made within 48 hours about what to do next.

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was quoted by AFP as saying that he was disappointed protesters in Thailand had forced the cancellation of a major Asian summit, saying there were 'deep problems' in the host nation.

Rudd was en route to the summit in the beach resort of Pattaya Saturday when his plane was forced to divert mid-flight after anti-government protesters smashed their way into the event venue.

The meeting, at which Rudd would have held important talks on the global financial crisis, was cancelled amid extraordinary scenes of foreign leaders being plucked by helicopter from the roof of their luxury hotel.

In its Sunday edition, Singapore’s Strait Times said it was an embarrassing moment for Asean as crucial meetings between its leaders and key regional partners on the global economic crisis were abandoned.

The signing of an investment agreement with China on Saturday was scuttled, as were discussions on a regional currency swap fund to help Asian economies.

An Indonesian trade official, a veteran of five previous summits, told The Sunday Times the manner of its disruption was 'humiliating for Asean as a whole and Thailand as a host', especially when the eyes of the world were trained on it.

This is believed to be the first time that the annual Asean-led summits have been disrupted due to protests, in this case by nearly 2,000 red shirts - opponents of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's government.

Rodolfo Severino, a former Asean secretary-general and head of the Asean Studies Centre in Singapore, said it was a missed opportunity for Asean to come up with initiatives in response to the worsening economic crisis. But he laid the blame squarely on Bangkok.

'Asean doesn't have anything to do with the cancellation. The problem is that Thailand was assuring everyone that things would be all right,' he told The Sunday Times over the phone.

 





 

 

 

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