01/20/2009, 00.00
THAILAND
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ASEAN summit an opportunity and challenge for Thailand, says prime minister

by Weena Kowitwanij
Abhisit Vejjajiva urges his fellow citizens to make a common effort to organise the event. The economic crisis and greater co-operation among member states are main issues on the agenda. ASEAN secretary, a Thai, says summit is a test for the country.
Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Hosting the next ASEAN summit represents “opportunity as well as a challenge” for Thailand, said Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva as he urged his fellow citizens to make a common effort to organise the event. This way co-operation among Asian nations will be strengthened and they will be better able to cope with the world’s great financial crisis.

The summit of the Association of South-East Asian nations or ASEAN (which includes Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Brunei, Cambodia and Thailand) was originally scheduled for December of last year in Chiang Mai, but had to be postponed because of Thailand’s political crisis. Now it is set for 27 February-1 March in Hua Hin, Prachubkirikan province, some 200 kilometres from Bangkok, where the Thai king has a summer residence.

“The ASEAN Summit is a priority for the government,” Mr Abhisit said. “Every Thai should benefit from it. [. . .] It is a good opportunity as well as a challenge” in “building up the ASEAN community.”

“The summit will be the first test to show that Thailand is back to normal and ready to participate in the activities of ASEAN nations,” said Surin Pitsuwan, a former member of the Democrat Party and ASEAN’s current secretary general.

The summit “is the first meeting after the world economic crisis,” he said during a meeting with Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Pirom.

It will “draw interest from people all over the world.” They will be able to see “how ASEAN will come up with possible solutions to the crisis.”

The ASEAN secretary dismissed criticism levelled at Thailand’s foreign minister because of the leading role he played in the People Alliances for Democracy during the country’s political crisis.

 “I am confident,” Mr Surin said instead, that through “co-operation among ASEAN member states the ASEAN community will be strengthened.”

The upcoming summit will have three main points on the agenda, namely how to put into practice the ASEAN Charter, how to revive the organisation by increasing citizen participation; and how to increase development and improve stability through greater co-operation.

This is the second time Thailand is host to an ASEAN summit; the first time was in 1995.

The last ASEAN summit was held in Singapore in 2007.

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