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Thai protesters shut down ASEAN summit meetings: officials
Pattaya (Thailand), Apr 11 (AFP):
Published on 11 Apr. 2009 11:21 PM IST
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Thai anti-government demonstrators today blockaded a summit of Asian leaders for a second day, forcing the postponement of two key meetings, with reports of three people injured. The protesters have vowed to target the summit in the beach resort of Pattaya, which is supposed to be focused on the global economic crisis, until Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva resigns. Officials said that a meeting between Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and the leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) had been postponed because of the rallies. The announcement came after nearly 1,000 protesters wearing red shirts as a symbol of loyalty to exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra moved towards the summit venue chanting slogans against Abhisit. They were confronted by hundreds of pro-government supporters, wearing blue shirts and carrying sticks and bottles. Police kept the two sides apart but the stand-off blocked the road to the summit, AFP reporters said. “The ASEAN-China summit has been postponed because of the attempts to block the arrangement of the leaders,” Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn told reporters. “The leaders still reaffirm that they are committed to hold this meeting. They have been informed of this development. We wish to ensure the safety of the leaders.” Helicopters evacuate leaders Pattaya, (Thailand) Apr 11 (AFP): Helicopters began evacuating foreign leaders today after anti-government protests forced the postponement of a major Asian summit in Thailand, officials said. The heads of states and ministers started leaving as Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva declared a state of emergency in the resort town and the surrounding province of Chonburi after protesters stormed the hotel where the summit was to open. Philippines President Gloria Arroyo boarded a civilian helicopter. Police separately said that Myanmar Prime Minister Thein Sein had been airlifted by chopper to a nearby military airfield. Declaring the state of emergency over television, Vejjajiva said, “the government has a duty to take care of the leaders who will depart from Thailand.” “In this extremely serious situation, the government has decided to impose a state of emergency in Pattaya and Chonburi to deal with the situation,” he said. Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said the state of emergency was to ensure the security of leaders attending the regional talks “and to restore normalcy to the area”. The emergency measure bans public gatherings of more than five people and empowers police and military to detain suspects for between seven and 30 days without charge. Officials can also enforce strict controls on media and all other forms of communication. The state of emergency was declared after chaos erupted at the summit, which was supposed to discuss the global financial crisis and North Korea’s rocket launch. Red-shirted supporters loyal to ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra breached police lines, broke down glass doors and streamed through the media centre of the hotel to push their demands for Abhisit’s resignation. Troops made no attempt to stop the protesters despite promises of high-level security by Abhisit, who has been trying to show that his four-month-old government can cure Thailand’s long-running “ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) leaders have reached the consensus that the meeting has to be postponed for the security of leaders,” Wattanayagorn said. Protesters said they would remain inside the hotel until Abhisit resigns and said they stormed the building in response to the wounding of three supporters in earlier clashes with pro-government demonstrators. “We will stay until Abhisit quits,” Pichet Sukjindatong, one of the protest leaders said. “We are looking for him in this building so we can tell him to his face that he has to go. The Red Shirts have been asking him to resign for four months and we decided that now was the time to push him,” he added.

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