Thai protests force cancellation of Asian summit | World| Breaking news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 11.04.2009
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Thai protests force cancellation of Asian summit

Thailand's prime minister has declared a state of emergency in the beach resort of Pattaya and the surrounding province after anti-government protesters stormed a regional summit.

A woman in a red shirt raises her arm

Anti-government demonstrators display their political allegiance by wearing red

The summit between delegates of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and six dialogue members was also called off, after hundreds of demonstrators broke into the luxury hotel hosting the meeting on Saturday.

"The government has a duty to take care of the leaders who will depart from Thailand," Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said in an address on Thai television.

"In this extremely serious situation, the government has decided to impose a state of emergency in Pattaya and Chonburi to deal with the situation."

Foreign leaders were being evacuated by helicopter.

Ahead of the summit, the Thai government had made assurances that it would take whatever measures necessary to prevent such a situation. Officials have now acknowledged that security forces had failed to do just that.

"Red Shirts" Protestors

The protesters, who support former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, held an impromptu press conference to air their grievances.

Police wearing safety gear tackle red shirted protesters

The anti-government protesters have also clashed with their pro-government rivals

Protest leader Arisman Pongruangrong said, "We want to find Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to tell him he cannot be prime minister any more.

“We want to tell him that if he holds an election and wins fairly then we will accept him. Now he is illegitimate and we cannot stand for this.”

The “Red Shirts” protesters said they will remain inside the hotel until Abhisit resigns and claim they stormed the building after three fellow supporters were wounded in earlier clashes with pro-government demonstrators.

Prime Minister Abhisit has repeatedly resisted calls to step down despite days of anti-government protests, both in Bangkok and at the summit.

Summit postponed, not cancelled

Summit meetings between ASEAN and ministers from China, South Korea and Japan had been delayed earlier by clashes between anti-government and pro-government supporters. Thai officials said talks would be held in about two months' time.

The summit groups ASEAN leaders plus their counterparts from China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.

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