11 Apr 2009

Protesters wreck summit: Key stuck at airport

9:56 pm on 11 April 2009

Prime Minister John Key is trying to get out of Thailand after anti-government protesters forced the cancellation of the summit he and 15 other leaders were due to attend.

Mr Key has been at Bangkok airport all day Saturday because of the protest action, but is hoping to bring a flight forward so he can safely leave Thailand.

On Saturday the Thai Prime Minister declared a state of emergency in Pattaya, where the summit had been scheduled for Sunday at a plush beach resort hotel.

Red-shirted protesters demanding the resignation of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and the reinstatement of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra breached security lines, broke through glass doors and streamed into the hotel, scattering delegates and media.

Radio New Zealand political reporter Chris Bramwell, who was at the hotel, says that though the protesters were noisy they were not violent. They held an impromptu media conference at which they said they'd succeeded in their intention of embarrassing the Thai government.

Thailand's deep political rifts further exposed

The cancellation is certainly a huge embarrassment for Mr Abhisit's government, which came to power in December via parliamentary defections the opposition says were engineered by the military.

The weekend's events will raise questions about how enduring his government can be after four prime ministers over the last 15 months have failed to resolve Thailand's deep political rifts.

"The task for me and the government now is to provide security for the leaders to travel back home safely," Mr Abhisit said in a brief address on television.

The summit had been intended to bring together the 10 members of Asean (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) plus China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand, to discuss regional responses to the global economic crisis.