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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2960

Thailand undecided on hosting 14th ASEAN summit, while protestors hold the country to ransom

Bangkok, 29 November, ( While protesters from the anti-Government People’s Alliance for Democracy occupying Suvarnabhumi international airport and Don Mueng Domestic Airport for a fourth day running, Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat
has to decide whether to postpone next month's summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), after several member countries expressed concern over the protest that has closed the kingdom's two main airports, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Embattled Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat Embattled Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat

Thailand is scheduled to host the 14th ASEAN Summit from December 13 to 18 in the northern city of Chiang Mai.

ASEAN Affairs Department director-general Vitthawat Srivihok told reporters that the ministry was preparing two options, either Thailand would proceed with the original schedule in hosting the summit, or the government would delay the event after evaluations indicate that the summit could not run as smoothly as planned.

Also, the international community openly criticized Thai officials on Friday. At a meeting called at the Foreign Ministry to "explain" the situation to ambassadors, the foreign envoys called on the government to clear the Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Thai Prime Minister has transferred the all powerful National Police Chief General Patcharawat Wongsuwan to an inactive post in the prime minister's office and appointed Police General Pateep Tanprasert, Inspector-General as acting national police chief.

No reason was given for the removal and appointment. However it is said that the abrupt transfer of the national police chief came as the Police was authorized to end the demonstrations by thousands People's Alliance for Democracy protesters at Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports.

The state of emergency declared by the embattled cabinet of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat has evoked widespread fears that any attempt to use force to clear Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports could spark a bloody confrontation with the anti-government activists.

An officer at Don Mueang used a megaphone to tell protesters that they had to leave the rally site, otherwise "law enforcement officers will carry out appropriate and necessary measures to solve the situation".

Police began planning what they described as an open operation to reclaim the airports.

Bangkok police chief Pol Lt Gen Suchart Muankaew said after a video conference with the prime minister that he will begin with peaceful means, and try to talk the demonstrators into leaving, but with plans to escalate action.

"We will use the gentle way first. The priority is to negotiate and not crack down immediately. We are all Thais," regional deputy police commander Pol Maj Gen Piya Sorntrakoon told a news agency.

Thai Police also requested the Thai Attorney General yesterday to revoke the bail for the nine leaders of the People's Alliance for Democracy yesterday. But the police request was turn down by the Attorney General’s office stating that the procedure had not been carried out correctly in the request.

The PAD leaders have been freed on bail pending the prosecution review of charges relating to their raids on Government House and the NBT broadcasting station on August 26.

The leaders are Chamlong Srimuang, Sondhi Limthongkul, Pipop Thongchai, Somkiart Pongpaiboon, Somsak Kosaisuk, Suriyasai Katasila, Chaiwat Sinsuwong, Amorn Amornratananont and Therdpoom Chaidee.

Activist Sudchai Boonchai petitioned police to revoke bail by accusing the nine of repeating serious offences following their temporary release. The capital's two major airports, at Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi, are now under siege by the PAD.

Metropolitan Police commissioner Lt-General Suchart Muenkaew said that in accordance with police procedure the PAD leaders would be detained should police decide to disperse the crowds at the two airports.

In the meantime, Airlines began flying stranded air travelers out from Utapao naval base on Friday. But there are tens of thousands of passengers who have missed flights from the four days of unrest that have badly hit Thailand's tourist industry and Utapao is a Vietnam war-era base with few facilities to handle thousands of air passengers.

But according to reports from the protest sites, Somsak Kosaisuk, a core leader of the People's Alliance for Democracy, told a crowd of yellow-shirted supporters occupying Don Mueang airport: "We are not afraid. We will fight to the death, we will not surrender and we are ready."

Top PAD leader Chamlong Srimuang told reporters that "a senior person in the country" had telephoned to ask him to move his protest out of Suvarnabhumi airport, because the closure has severely damaged the economy.

Maj-Gen Chamlong told that he had told the senior person that he will halt all rallies - if the prime minister resigns.
PAD founder and core leader Sondhi Limthongkul said that the prime minister had phoned him to suggest a dialogue. "There are no talks," he told reporters.

- Asian Tribune -

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