More than 3,000 police to protect ASEAN summit: official

BANGKOK, Feb 4, 2009 (AFP) - Thailand will deploy more than 3,000 police to protect delegates and deal with anti-government protests at a summit of Southeast Asian nations this month, an official said Wednesday.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit was initially scheduled to take place in December, but had to be postponed after thousands of demonstrators took over Bangkok's two airports for more than a week.

A new government is now in power and has moved the meeting down to the coastal town of Hua Hin from February 27 to March 1, but they have also been hit by demonstrations by an opposing group calling for fresh elections.

"Eight companies -- or 1,200 police -- will be assigned to handle protesters and 300 police will man checkpoints," said central and southern regional police commander Lieutenant Thawil Surachetpong.

Another 1,600 police will be deployed at the summit venue and nine hotels where leaders from the 10-member ASEAN will be staying, while snipers will patrol on high rise buildings, he added.

Helicopters will be on standby in case of emergency in the resort town, which is also the site of an important royal palace.

Thailand has been beset by protests since May last year, when a royalist group took to the streets to protest the ruling party's links with ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra. The group seized the airports in late November.

Those protests ended when a court dissolved the Thaksin-linked ruling party, but the subsequent parliamentary election on December 15 of the Democrat Party angered Thaksin's supporters, and they have now launched a protest campaign.

Up to 30,000 protesters known as the "Red Shirts" because of their clothing rallied in Bangkok on Saturday and have vowed to return in 15 days, but they have not yet threatened to disrupt the ASEAN talks.

Source: AFP

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