02/24/2009, 00.00
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Suspense growing as 14th ASEAN summit approaches

by Weena Kowitwanij
The summit is set to address the economic, social and political integration by the association’s ten member states to create a free trade area for goods, people and labour. Meanwhile China, Japan and South Korea create a fund to protect local currencies.
Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Suspense is growing in Thailand ahead of the 14th summit of the Association of South Asian Nations (ASEAN) which is set to open in Prachuabkirikan province from 27 February till 1 March. In parallel in Phuket, also Thailand (pictured), Japan, China, South Korea and 10 South-East Asian nations have agreed to create a US0 billion pool of foreign-exchange reserves that can be used by countries to defend their currencies amid the deepening global recession.

The ASEAN summit is likely to be targeted by protesters who want to express their opposition to current Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. General Anupong Paojinda explained that police will not intervene against peaceful protests and will not use violence.

Thailand, which has seen several prime ministers come and go in the last few years, is trying to restore its role on the world scene.

Prime Minister Abhisit had accepted the invitation by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to visit Great Britain on 12-13 March and take part in the G20 summit in London, set for 2 April.

In the 2003 summit held in Indonesia, ASEAN member states (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Brunei, Cambodia and Thailand) agreed to economic, political, social and cultural cooperation in view of creating a supranational ASEAN community of some 567 million people by the year 2015.

For political pundit Kasit Pirom this could increase trade and the movement of people (by simplifying visa requirements) as well as favour more joint projects and a policy of integration among more developed and poorer ASEAN members.

Although the project has had a bumpy road however, the current global economic shakedown has breathed new life into it.

A first step has been the creation of a US$ 120 billion fund, 80 per cent from Japan, China and South Korea, and about US$ 3.5 billion each from ASEAN’s five major members (Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia).

It will help protect local currencies from extreme swings against the US dollar and maintain stability among Asian currencies.

ASEAN economies are already closely interlinked and the fund will contain the effects of a run on any one currency.

In 2008 the currencies of all eight countries lost ground to the US dollar; South Korea’s won lost 37 per cent, whilst Indonesia’s rupiah lost 23 per cent.

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