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Asean meet in question amid crisis

Cambodian officials to wait and see whether security improves

GOVERNMENT officials remained uncertain Thursday on whether they will attend the December 14 summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Thailand, as security fears over political upheaval in the host country's capital continue to escalate.

"We are already prepared for the summit, but there is still three more weeks to go, and we are waiting to see whether the political crisis in Thailand settles in order to maintain security and guarantee smooth operation of the summit," Koy Kuong, a secretary of state at the Foreign Ministry, told the Post Thursday.

The leaders of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam agreed at a meeting on Wednesday to propose that the summit be postponed to a later date as the situation in Bangkok deteriorated after mass protests closed the capital's two main airports.

But Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said Thursday that Cambodia may be willing to keep the date if Thai officials can ensure stable conditions.

"We will participate in the summit in order to please the Thai premier, but will wait to hear if there is any possibility of irregularity ... which could impact the condition of the summit," he said.  

Thai officials declared Thursday that, "as of now", the regional summit will go ahead on schedule in the northern city of Chiang Mai.

"As of now, I insist that the summit will proceed as planned, but I will discuss this issue with the prime minister and he will make the final decision," Thailand's Foreign Minister Sompong Amornviwat said from Germany, where he remains stranded.

Asean Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan and other members will now consult Thailand about whether it is best to delay the meeting or maintain the scheduled date.

Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat returned to Thailand from an APEC summit in Peru on Wednesday on a special flight that landed in Chiang Mai, where he has called a Cabinet meeting to address the escalating turmoil.

He has rejected calls by the army chief to hold new elections.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP

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