Asean secretary general Surin Pitsuwan has reassured Thailand that postponing the grouping’s summit, scheduled for this month in the country’s north, would not hurt the bloc’s work plans, the Asean Secretariat in Jakarta said on Sunday.
Thailand has said it may have to delay the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations until March, as antigovernment protesters continue their occupation of Bangkok’s two airports. The cabinet is expected to make a final decision on Tuesday on whether to go ahead with the meeting in northern Thailand’s Chiang Mai Province.
Surin was forced to fly from Jakarta to Penang before traveling by land to the Thai-Malaysian border en route to Bangkok due to the closure of Suvarnabhumi Airport since Tuesday.
Surin said Thai leaders had told him that their hesitation to postpone the summit was due to a fear of complicating Asean progress, with the meeting scheduled to endorse a landmark charter on Dec. 15.
Sixteen leaders from East Asia are expected to agree on a package of strategies and action plans to face the unfolding global financial turmoil as a unified front.
They are scheduled to be joined by heads of organizations such as the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization and the Asian Development Bank.
“There are many declarations, agreements and MOUs that await endorsement at the summit,” Surin said in a statement issued by the Asean Secretariat.
“Many important meetings, activities and projects are also being lined up under the Thai chairmanship in the coming year.
“But I assure them that we can rearrange our work plans if Thailand, which currently holds the rotating chair of Asean and who is hosting the 14th summit, decides to postpone it for a few weeks.”
Surin said a delay would enable the Asean Secretariat to better prepare for the summit.
“This will be the first summit with the Asean Charter in place, so there is a need to make it special,” Surin said.
“A postponement would be good for Asean officials to prepare everything with Thai officials.”
On Friday, Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat said the final decision on the status of the summit would be decided by the Thai cabinet on Tuesday in Chiang Mai.
He said that while the Foreign Ministry was in favor of a postponement, Thailand, as Asean chair, had to consider the different initiatives scheduled to be discussed and signed at the summit.
A spokesman for Philippine President Gloria Arroyo said on Sunday that some Southeast Asian governments had asked for the summit to be postponed, Agence France-Presse reported.
“There are already requests from some countries to reset the Asean summit because of this problem,” Jesus Dureza said, quoting the Philippine Embassy in Bangkok.
“Everybody is also just waiting and hoping that the standoff can be resolved as soon as possible, as peacefully as possible,” he said.
Asean groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.