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Asean Summit still on in besieged Thailand

PATTAYA, 10 April 2009: The Thai government said the 14th Asean Summit will be held as scheduled despite increasing security threat from hundreds of protesters who swarmed the meeting’s venue today.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, who is in charge of security, told a news conference at the Pattaya Exhibition and Convention Hall today that no matter what, the summit would proceed as planned.

But Suthep said the government was negotiating with the protest leaders to clear the venue’s entrance so that leaders from participating countries could enter. 

“The police chief is currently talking with them, and I’m prepared to negotiate with them.

“For the country’s sake, the protesters must stop the blockade,” he said.

He said that despite the threat from the supporters of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, security forces had not used force to disperse them.

Suthep said Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had already arrived in Pattaya while six more leaders were expected here later today.

Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is scheduled to arrive at 4pm Malaysian time today.

Thousands of red-shirt protesters have blocked major roads in Bangkok for the second consecutive day in their bid to force Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to resign and dissolve Parliament.

Instead, Abhisit declared today a public holiday.

Officials from several countries, when contacted, said there was no change in the schedule and their leaders were expected to arrive here as planned.

“We are monitoring the situation closely. The Thai authorities have set up a contingency plan in case the situation gets out of hand,” said an official.

It is learnt that several navy ships and helicopters are also on stand-by near the Royal Cliff Beach Resort where most of the leaders will be staying.

After paralysing Bangkok yesterday, the demonstrators, dressed in red t-shirts, came with loud hailers on board lorries, and blocked the main road leading to the resort at noon today to disrupt the summit.

The “Red Shirts”, whose full name is “Great Masses of the Red-Shirt People”, have described their actions as a legitimate exercise against an illegitimate government.

Besides Bangkok, the “Red Shirts” also staged demonstrations in 21 provinces, mostly in the northern and north-eastern parts of Thailand yesterday.

Abhisit is currently inside the hotel but the protestors’ arrival could derail the summit. — Bernama

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