ASEAN Members Mull Postponing Summit amid Thai Crisis

HANOI ~ Governments throughout Southeast Asia mulled on Thursday postponing a December ASEAN summit in Thailand amid a worsening political crisis in the country.

The prime ministers of Laos, Cambodia and Thailand have asked the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) secretary general to consider postponing the meeting, Laos foreign ministry spokesman Yong Chanthalangsy said.

Secretary General Surin Pistuwan should “consult the Thai government to see if the summit should go ahead as scheduled or if it should be postponed”, Chanthalangsy said of the summit to be held in the northern city of Chiang Mai.

The three leaders want “the ASEAN summit and other meetings be held successfully,” said Cambodia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong.

Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornviwat, who is stranded in Germany after Bangkok’s main international airport was stormed by protesters, said he had been inundated with queries from other foreign ministers asking about the turmoil, but that the summit will go ahead.

“Several countries are seriously concerned with the incidents happening in our country now – there is no rule of law,” the foreign minister said.

Supporters of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) started late Wednesday massing at the old Don Mueang airport, where the Thai government had been holding cabinet meetings in a disused terminal after protesters occupied Government House in central Bangkok in late August.

On Monday, PAD supporters besieged Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat’s temporary office as well, as they upped their bid to topple the government, which they accuse of running the country on behalf of ousted and exiled premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

A Malaysian foreign ministry official said plans for the meeting may have to be delayed if the political crisis continues.

“As of the moment there has not been any development on (a postponement or cancellation), but the current developments taking place in Bangkok are cause for concern,” the official said.

“If things don’t get any better, then obviously some action has to be taken,” he said, adding it would likely take the form of a joint statement by ASEAN ministers.

“The situation appears rather confused. We are very troubled by it. We hope that all groups in Thailand will have the political will to compromise and find a way out for the country,” Singaporean Foreign Minister George Yeo was quoted by the Straits Times daily as saying.

“I am worried that the ASEAN summit will be affected,” he said.

A spokesman for Indonesia’s foreign ministry said the government of Southeast Asia’s largest country had been assured by Thailand the summit could go ahead but was keeping an eye on the situation.

Thai anti-government protesters have blockaded and shut down a second Bangkok airport, after they forced the closure of the country’s main international hub Tuesday.

A spokesperson for the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta was unable to be reached for comment.

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