Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Asean chief welcomes end of Bangkok rally

(Nation Multimedia) - Asean Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan said Tuesday that he welcomed the end of the anti-government protest in Bangkok on Tuesday.

"I hoped and prayed for normalcy to return to Thailand quickly, so that the Thai people can celebrate Songkran peacefully this week in the tradition of family reunion, friendship, and forgiveness," he said in a statement.

The red shirted protesters abruptly ended their rally on Tuesday. Their leaders claimed that the pull-back was not the defeat of the movement and they would resume the protest after Songkran Day.

He also referred to the collapse of Asean Summit plus dialogue partner countries in Pattaya last week. During the period, the red shirts led by Arisamun Pongruengrong stormed into meeting building of the Summit, forcing the Thai government to cancel the meeting.

"I am grateful to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of Thailand and the Thai Government for the safe evacuation of the Leaders of Asean member States and their Dialogue Partners from Pattaya following the cancellation of the "Related Summits" on 11-12 April 2009."

Those affected leaders, as well as their ministers and senior officials, agreed with the decision Surin said, adding they also sympathized with Abhisit for trying to avoid violence and bloodshed at all costs.

Surin also put on record the followings;

- What had happened in Pattaya and Bangkok will not erode the credibility and dignity of Thailand's chairmanship of Asean. On the contrary, the restrained government responses showed the integrity of the Thai Government in restoring law and order with admirable respect for life, safety, and constitutional rights of all.

- The cancellation in Pattaya was a serious setback to Asean, an irrevocable loss of great opportunity. But it will not weaken Asean. Neither will it discourage Asean.- The other Asean Leaders and their Dialogue Partners were actually in Pattaya (except the Prime Minister of Australia who was on his way, and the Prime Minister of India who could not attend); they were there, ready to meet and cooperate, with us in Asean , even when many protesters were trying to block traffic and create commotion.

- The centrality of Asean has not been questioned. In fact, many Asean Leaders and their Dialogue Partners have expressed support for Asean to re-schedule the "Related Summits" as soon as possible.

He said he is now in Bali, preparing to attend the meeting of the Third Bali Regional Ministerial Conference. "I will take advantage of the presence of several Asean ministers and those of Dialogue Partners and their senior officials to begin a round of consultations on the next steps to regain momentum for Asean."

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