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Deputy PM Suthep Tueksuban with village chiefs at the Hilton Phuket Arcadia

Winner Phuket Gets Set For Asean Plus Windfall

Saturday, May 2, 2009
PHUKET tourism chiefs welcomed the island winning the Asean Plus Six Summit today and predicted it would bring a huge boost in cash and prestige to the local economy.

With it will come two quite substantial conferences as preludes to the main event over the weekend of June 13-14, with the leaders of 16 Asia-Pacific nations and their entourages involved.

No security risks will be taken following the collapse of the summit in Pattaya during the Songkran-Easter weekend under the weight of an invasion by red-shirt protesters.

Today's announcement was made by Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Tueksuban on the front steps of the summit conference centre, which will be the Hilton Arcadia Resort and Spa.

Some countries are expected to set up bases in other resorts along the coast, with Patong likely to be the destination for three nations.

With delegations expected to total 1600 individuals and a media task force of 1200, the summit represents an enormous boost to brand Phuket.

Among the attendees at the large conference today were 102 village chiefs, or puyaiban. Their spokesman, Kacha Wanit, undertook that there would be no repetition of local street protests that have bedevilled motorists in Kamala and Surin recently.

Khun Suthep, a former village chief, spent some time after the meeting chatting to the puyaiban.

This afternoon's crowded gathering at the Hilton followed a helicopter ride above the island for Khun Suthep and 19 others.

After making the announcement about Phuket, Khun Suthep added that 15 ambassadors from the representative countries will be called to a meeting in Bangkok on Monday.

They will be told that security can be guaranteed for the summit on Phuket.

All being well, Khun Suthep said he would call Governor Wichai Praisa-Nob immediately after the meeting to confirm that the summit is going ahead.

Khun Wichai was among locals delighted that the summit is coming to Phuket, with the military overseeing all aspects of security.

Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon was at today's gatherings, along with senior army and navy chiefs and some air force representatives.

The Foreign Ministry and the PM's department were represented by senior officials.

with the World of Halal Science Industry and Business conference being held there simultaneously, the capacity of the Hilton Phuket Arcadia to hold large gatherings was being amply demonstrated today.

Leaders of Phuket's large Muslim community were at the airport and again at the Hilton Phuket Arcadia to greet Khun Suthep and the other Bangkok officials.

Preceding the Asean Plus Six Summit will be a meeting of representatives from 27 countries, followed by a Cabinet meeting, chaired by the Prime Minister.

Among those pleased at the result of today's close scrutiny of the island and the result were John Kidd, general manager of the Hilton Phuket Arcadia, Tunyaratt Achariyachal, chair of the Standing Committee on Tourism in the Senate, Methee Tanmanatragul, president of the southern chapter of the Thai Hotels Association, Paiboon Upatising, chief executive of the Phuket Provincial Administrative Organisation, and the Mayor of Patong, Pian Keesin, who was representing nine tessaban local authorities.

While security would have played an important role in the final decision, a lot of opinions would have been canvassed in the lead-up to today's meeting.

The Asean Plus Six Summit has a troubled history. First scheduled for Bangkok, it was postponed because of the invasion of the capital's airports by yellow shirt protesters in November.

Then it was to be Phuket's turn, but sufficient accommodation could not be found during the Songkran-Easter break, so it went to Pattaya.

Poor security led to red shirt protesters invading the resort on the day the summit was to begin, triggering an emergency airlift to safety for some national leaders.

The 10-member Asean grouping of Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Laos and the Philippines is to be bolstered by China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India.

In the context of the global downturn, this makes Asean Plus Six the most important conference in the Asia-Pacific for many years.

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