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Thailand declared state of emergency

eTN & wire services  Apr 11, 2009

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva announced a state of emergency in Pattaya and Chon Buri on Saturday afternoon after red-shirt protesters broke into the Royal Cliff Beach hotel, the venue of the 14th Asean Summit in Pattaya.

He also confirmed the indefinite postponement of the Asean summit and related meetings.
Mr Abhisit said Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban had been instructed to implement the enforcement of the Emergency Decree.

The announcement came after protesters led by United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) core-member Arisman Pongruengrong swarmed through the venue, the Royal Cliff Hotel, including entering the Royal Wing where the leaders and their delegations were housed.

The prime minister said he had subsequently consulted the other Asean leaders.
Mr Abhisit said the Asean leaders ‚Äúunderstood the situation‚ÄĚ and agreed with his decision.
He said the leaders of Japan, China, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand - Asean's dialogue partners - all expressed appreciation of Thailand's efforts to host the summit. They also supported his decision to postpone the top-level meeting indefinitely.

The prime minister said government's main priority now was to ensure the safety of the government leaders and their delegations and ensure their smooth departure.
He had made the decision to call off the meetings for the benefit of the country as a whole, Mr Abhisit said.

The red-shirt followers of the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra UDD forced their way into the Royal Cliff Hotel a few minutes before 1pm.
They claimed angrily that some of their members had been injured during a clash in the morning with about 300 men dressed in blue.

They claimed the blue-clad people were sponsored by the government.

About 2,000 red-shirt protestors clashed with local residents wearing blue about 9am as the UDD mob tried to block the long narrow road leading to the South Pattaya hotel.

Both groups were armed with wooden poles and firecrackers. Although leaders of both sides seemingly tried to avoid a clash ‚Äď a skirmish broke out resulting in a number of injuries.

The red-shirts were supported by a fleet of about 200 taxis that arrived in Pattaya from Bangkok to join the protest.

The clash between the red and blue shirts prevented the leaders of Japan, China and South Korea from making their way to the summit venue, as they were housed at the Dusit Resort and Amari hotels in North Pattaya.
The morning clash prompted the government to announce a postponement of the Asean-China, Asean-South Korea and Asean-Japan summits, which were scheduled to be held from 9am to about 11am.

At the time the government said these three summit meetings would still be held, but would be rescheduled.

But red-shirt core member Arisman led the protestors to the conference venue and demanded that he and other representatives be allowed inside to hold a press conference.

They were allowed to enter. During the press conference, Mr Arisman claimed that the blue-shirt protesters who went against the red-shirts were in fact military personnel.

He showed the media hundreds of blue shirts along with spent cartridges and Molotov cocktails and small pingpong grenades, which he said were used against the UDD protesters.

He demanded the summit be postponed. He claimed Mr Abhisit and Mr Suthep should be held responsible, claiming that government-sponsored blue-shirt demonstrators had attacked the people.

Prior to the break in at the hotel, Mr Arisman was seen on television speaking by phone to a senior official. He said later the person he was speaking to was army Chief Gen Anupong Paojinda. Mr Arisman refused to negotiate, saying that Mr Abhisit was responsible for the clash between red and blue shirts in the morning.

The UDD supporters then broke the glass doors of the hotel, swarmed past soldiers guarding the entrance and entered the press centre. They spread across the conference venue, cheering loudly and chanting for the resignation of the prime minister.

Mr Arisman held another quick press conference at which he said that one red shirt protester who had been shot had later died at Banglamung Hospital. He also said that two taxi drivers were shot and accused Mr Abhisit, Mr Suthep and Newin Chidchob of masterminding the blue-shirt attacks.

Mr Arisman also said he was prepared to take responsibility for the damage to the hotel, but added the hotel was also partially responsible for agreeing to host the summit.

He issued an ultimatum, that police had an hour to find the people who shot the red-shirt protesters.

About 1.45pm, after protesters had marched freely throughout the hotel, including the Royal Wing housing the visiting delegations, the red-shirts started returning to the press centre area.

They left the hotel after the prime minister announced the indefinite postponement of the Summit and the declaration of the state of emergency.

Thailand declared state of emergency

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