Saturday, April 11, 2009
SUMMIT CANCELLED, STATE OF EMERGENCY DECLARED IN RESORT CITY
The government has announced a decision has been made to postpone the summit to a later date, in effect cancelling it.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva declared a state of emergency in Pattaya and Chon Buri, partly to facilitate the departure of Asean VIP guests. He told a press conference Asean leaders and their dialogue partners understand the need to postpone the summit and support government action regarding Saturday's incidents.
Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban will be in charge of enforcing the state of emergency measures in Chon Buri and Pattaya. Saturday's turmoil will send Pattaya reeling economically. The resort city had hoped to reap the benefits of the Songkran festival but now has to cope with mounting tour and hotel cancellations.
The state of emergency law imposes tough restrictions on public gathering and dissemination of information. Authorities are given added power to search residents and venues and restrict travels.
Hundreds of protesters broke through a glass and poured into a Royal Cliff Beach Resort Hotel building where reporters stayed. The section is about 100 metres apart from a hotel section where summit leaders are supposed to meet.
This made the meeting impossible after the government earlier only announced a minor postponement of schedules.
The cancellation has also been announced by acting government spokesman Panithan Watanayagorn, who had earlier said it was only a delay, not cancellation.
Few protesters suffered minor injuries in a clash in Pattaya Saturday morning when the Asean summit with dialogue partners was about to begin.
"The government is investigating the incident," Panithan told an urgent press conference.
At 8:40 am, the red-shirted protesters armed with giant firecrackers, Molotov cocktails, sling shots and batons, battled with local people who formed a line to protect the venue of Asean +6 and Asean + 3 summits.
Government officials denied the blue shirted men, who confronted the red-shirted protesters and clashed with them, were state-sponsored.
Spokesman Panithan rejected the connection with the blue shirted men saying they are simply ordinary people who wanted to see the summit proceed smoothly. They showed up to prevent the red shirted protesters from disrupting the summit, he said.
The government was investigating the presence of the blue shirted men and they could be arrested if committed anything illegal, he said.
"We were also concerned about the safety of the leaders and the people including the protesters. We are working hard to control the situation," Panithan said.
The Foreign Ministry's spokesman Tharit Charungvat, said all delegates are not the targets of the protesters. "The protesters want to humiliate the government," he said.
Fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and red-shirted leaders have indicated that they would consider cancellation of the summit a victory for the red-shirted campaign. They claim the Abhisit Vejjajiva government was not legitimate because it was set up following "unfair" court rulings against the former pro-Thaksin ruling party and a military-dictated defection of some formerly pro-Thaksin MPs.
The red shirted protesters under the umbrella of the Democratic Alliance Against Democracy (DAAD) demanded Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and some members of the Privy Council to step down. They claimed the blue shirt men hurt them.
Reporters saw the outnumbered blue-shirted local people was scattered and ran for cover when the red-shirted people attacked them.
Several explosion sounds of firecrackers were heard and the red-shirted people were seen as firing slingshots with bolts at the blue-shirted people who tried formed a line in front of the Royal Cliff Beach Resort Hotel.
The red-shirted people formed a line and kept advancing until the two sides stood confronting less than one metre apart and the clash broke out.
The red-shirted protesters were seen carrying Molotov cocktails but none had been thrown at the other side yet.
Terrified local residents closed their houses and many were seen weeping with fear.
On Friday, the red-shirted leaders in Bangkok recruited the protesters to be deployed to Pattaya to fight against the blue-shirted ones.
About 10,000 red-shirted protesters arrived at Pattaya in over 500 taxis, 20 buses and some six-wheel trucks, motorcycles and private cars.
They reached the Phet Trakul Road where a group of red-shirted people was demonstrating at about 11:50 pm.
At 7 am, about 100 red-shirted protesters and 30 taxis blocked the exit of Dusit Thani Pattaya Hotel to try to prevent the Chinese prime minister, Japanese prime minister and South Korean president to leave for a summit with Asean leaders.
This followed a turmoil in Bangkok on Thursday when red-shirted protesters blocked the Victory Monument and caused traffic turmoil all across the city.
Following the Pattaya incident, the red shirt movement also issued a statement condemning what was claimed to be "government's ambush against unarmed citizens."
The statement, reportedly written by Jakrapop Penkair, a former Cabinet member in a previous pro-Thaksin administration, said the UAAD came to Pattaya "in good nature" but "reactions of the government and their leaders couldn't have been more harsh and undemocratic."
The statement said there were at least 2 cases of shootings aimed to harm red-shirt supporters. It also said as the red-shirt supporters were leaving the compound of the Royal Cliff Beach Pataya hotel, where they submitted a letter appealing to the guest countries for boycott, they were "viciously ambushed by people hiding on the sides. At least 10 people were injured when large pieces of stone hit them in the heads and bodies. These ambushers were not a natural but a well-arranged setup."
The statement claimed Suthep Tueksuban, Deputy Prime Minister, and Newin Chidchob, a Thai Rak Thai defect and a major influence of the current coalition, were responsible for organising the blue-shirted activities.
"We insist that our purpose of protesting is entirely peaceful. The meetings with Thailand's side, if gone on, would be misleading, since the Thai government doesn't represent the people of the country democratically," it said.
Several people were killed and injured when anti-Thaksin protesters clashed with security forces while a pro-Thaksin government, led by Thaksin's brother-in-law Somchai Wongsawat, was in power last year.
Source: The Nation