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Phuket has a third shot in October at hosting the Asean Plus Six summit

Phuket Set for October Asean Plus Six Summit

Friday, May 29, 2009
Island Named as Asean Plus Six Host

PHUKET is to get its third chance to host the Asean Plus Six summit this October, with dates also fixed for another important conference on the island.

The 10 Asean nations plus the leaders of China, India, Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand will reassemble on Phuket from October 23-25.

As a prelude, Asean foreign ministers will meet on the island from July 16 to 23.

Thailand's Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya told other Asean foreign ministers on the sidelines of the Asean-EU meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, that the time and venue had been chosen.

Khun Kasit said Thai foreign ministry officials will visit Phuket from June 5 to 7 to check the island's preparedness.

While Phuket clearly has plenty of attributes, especially when it comes to security, some reservations apparently remain among Bangkok bureaucrats.

The Foreign Ministry is concerned about logistical problems involved in holding the meetings on the island, a source told the Bangkok Post.

The streets are narrow, and the meeting rooms small, the source told the newspaper. This probably means rival holiday destination Pattaya will make an 11th hour bid to wrest back the summit.

But Phuket does have one huge advantage: it's an island where support for the ruling Democrat Party coalition is virtually universal, and the few red-shirt representatives have already promised to behave.

The previous attempt to hold the summit in Pattaya at Songkran-Easter ended with red-shirt protesters invading the resort where the national leaders were gathering.

Phuket was chosen to be the venue, but no adequate space could be found because the island was too popular over the holiday break.

A hasty attempt to reconvene the summit on Phuket in June failed when several national leaders objected to the speed and the need for another gathering in October anyway.

But the Governor of Phuket, Wichai Praisa-nob, already had the total support of the island's local administrations and was working towards a successful summit.

Efforts to beautify the island have been continuing, with trees carefully pruned and fresh flower beds planted on the road between the airport and Phuket City.

Some reservations remain about security,with the need for a balance between vital protection and an overt, unnecessary display of military might that might frighten away tourists.

It is not known yet whether the centre for the summit will be the Hilton Arcadia Phuket in Karon, with resorts in Karon, Kata and Patong sharing the accommodation for thousands of delegation representatives and media.

The Asean Plus Six summit has a role in Thailand's modern history because the first attempt to hold it in Bangkok in November was scuttled by the yellow-shirt invasion of Suvarnabhumi Airport.

The invasion eventually led to the appointment of the Democrat-led government.

The Bangkok Post said today that its source reported that the government was more confident about the chances of both meetings going smoothly if they were held in Phuket rather than in Bangkok.

''Phuket people have complained about how tourism was hurt by the closure of Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports last year,'' the source said.

If Phuket were chosen as the venue, local people could show the world they were able to host international meetings.

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