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Thailand guarantees security for postponed ASEAN summit

Mon, 05/04/2009

Bangkok - The Thai government on Monday guaranteed full security for a regional summit on June 13 to 14 in Phuket, after the event was derailed last month by protestors.

"Every person in Phuket guarantees there will be an ASEAN summit on June 13-14," Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Tuebsuban said.

A summit of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its six main partners - Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea - had to be cancelled on April 11 after red-shirted anti-government demonstrators stormed the summit's hotel venue at Pattaya beach resort, 100 kilometres south-east of Bangkok.

Suthep was in charge of security for the Pattaya summit fiasco, blamed on poor coordination between the police, military and pro-government thugs. It was the first ASEAN summit to be canceled because of protests in the group's 42-year history.

The military will be soley responsible for security at the Phuket summit, officials said Monday.

Thai Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan said the government will place the summit venue and a 5-kilometre radius under the National Security Act, prohibiting all protests and allowing authorities to arrest unauthorized gatherings of more than five people.

Phuket, an island resort 600 kilometres south of Bangkok, is a political stronghold of the Democrat Party, which is led by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Suthep, a deputy leader of the Democrats, originally wanted the summit to be held in Phuket instead of Pattaya, because he felt more confident about the security situation on the pro-Democrat island, government sources said.

However, Phuket hoteliers were not keen on hosting the summit because of lack of rooms, forcing the government to shift the event to Pattaya.

Thailand's political instability has made ASEAN summit planning difficult for more than a year.

The 14th ASEAN summit plus sessions with its main partners was originally planned for mid-December last year, but was cancelled after anti-government protestors shut down Bangkok's two international airports for a week.

The ASEAN summit was then held in Hua Hin beach resort, 130 kilometres south of Bangkok, on February 28-March 1, but the side-summits with ASEAN's main partners had to be postponed until April because of scheduling difficulties.

Thailand, which is chair of ASEAN throughout 2009, will host yet another summit near the end of the year, politics permitting.

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

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