1,000 Protesters Force Cancellation of Asian Summit

APTOPIX Thailand Asia Summit

PATTAYA, Thailand — A Thai government official said a summit of Asian leaders has been canceled for security reasons.

The announcement Saturday came after more than 1,000 anti-government protesters smashed through glass doors to storm into the convention hall where some of the meetings between leaders of 16 Asian countries were scheduled to take place.

Government spokesman Supachai Jaisamuth said the situation was "too violent" for the meeting to take place.

The protesters are calling for the resignation of Thai Prime Abhisit Vejjajiva.

The chaos dealt a major blow to Abhisit, who has been trying to project an image of calm and normality since taking power in a parliamentary vote four months ago after a court dissolved the previous government.

Some protesters overturned coffee tables while others blew horns, waved Thai flags and screamed, "Abhisit get out!"

"We want to tell Abhisit himself that this meeting cannot go on," said protest leader Arisman Pongreungrong.

Earlier, Thai officials said all morning meetings had been postponed for "reasons of safety."

On Saturday morning, demonstrators kept some delegates from leaving their nearby hotels, causing the cancellation of a breakfast meeting of the foreign ministers from Japan, China and South Korea. Then the 2,000 protesters moved to the hilltop venue where the summit was to be held — the second day they have massed there.

The protesters clashed with a group of rival demonstrators, many of whom were dressed in navy blue or black, some wearing masks, about a half-mile from the summit venue. The two sides threw rocks and smoke bombs at each other about two miles from the venue.

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said two or three people were injured in the clashes and that authorities were investigating reports of shots fired and an explosion.

"The safety of the leaders is the most important to us, this is why we made a decision to slightly delay the meeting until we get a confirmation from all parties concerned that safety and order is in place," Panitan said.

Panitan said protesters have been warned that "very tough standards will be applied to them very soon."

Police Col. Chaichana Chittam said four people suffered minor injuries were hospitalized. At least three of them were anti-government protesters. Protest leaders claimed there were about ten.

Morning meetings were scheduled between the leaders of China and the 10-member ASEAN, or Association of Southeast Asian Nations, followed by South Korea and ASEAN, and then Japan and ASEAN.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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