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One of the invading red shirts at the Pattaya resort

Phuket's Turn Next for the Asean Summit?

Sunday, April 12, 2009
Phuketwan News Analysis

PHUKET can be grateful today, perhaps, that Pattaya was the place the authorities decided had the space and the security that a summit of Asia's leaders required.

Did they make that decision after considering the likelihood of a flag-waving mob of red shirts arriving at the resort door? Probably not.

It must have been considered unlikely to happen, otherwise adequate security measures would have been taken. The lines of defence would have held.

Phuket may lack a convention centre but the island does have the advantage, naturally, of being surrounded by water.

A thorough security operation at the Thatchatchai control point close to the bridges to the mainland would have prevented protesters from being bused or taxied in.

Our advice to the authorities would be: book space on the island now for the Asean summit replay.

Make Phuket a smiling stronghold.

We know this will not draw an enthusiastic response from resort managements on the island.

But what Thailand must do next time, is prove that it has the collective will to prevent a small group of agitators from interfering with political progress across the entire region.

Mob invasions caused a postponement of the Asean summit in November and a sudden cancellation in April.

Unless a national election is called, and that seems unlikely, Thai authorities really do need to be contemplating what happens next time.

The unthinkable alternative: to concede that Thailand is ill-equipped to stand alongside other nations in the region as a suitable destination for such a summit.

Phuket may be deprived of the right kind of infrastructure, but islands with one route on and off do have obvious advantages.

It's the island's turn next.

The broader issue is that while the Democrat-led government has been humiliated by the red shirt invasion, it remains in power.

Do large numbers of Thais still see Thaksin and his taxi-driver friends as an alternative?

They cry ''Give us democracy'' then pursue power through undemocratic means, with the success of the PAD as an unlikely source of inspiration.

And if the PM's image was dented by the Asean takeover, what about the reputations of the people in uniform whose job it was to prevent such a cringeworthy crisis?

How are they going to react?

Sadly, the next chapter in Bangkok this week is more likely to bring violence and real pain than it is to bring back the tourists.

Protest Wrecks Asean: State of Emergency Called
Photo Album The Prime Minister called a state of emergency this afternoon after red shirts took control of the Asean Summit and forced the leaders of 16 countries to head for home.
Protest Wrecks Asean: State of Emergency Called


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