PHUKET: Phuket has begun pulsing with vibrancy today. Official cars, police and army officers, and security guards are becoming a common sight. It’s all about the ASEAN foreign ministers meetings and the ASEAN Regional Forum, to be held at Laguna Phuket from Friday to July 23.
Phuketians generally welcome the massive security effort, despite all the checkpoints and limitations on vehicle movements, as Thailand needs to ensure the safety of the diplomats and important folks like US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
But how will all this formality and tightened security affect leisure-seeking tourists? How will party-goers and beach bums deal with the sometimes stern-looking officers guarding even the potted plants?
This issue has been discussed at great length on ThaiVisa.Com, the Phuket Gazette‘s partner in the popular ‘Phuket Forum’.
A tourist asks: “Is it strongly recommended to avoid Phuket during the meeting, or can I just ignore it?”
A guy replies: “As I see it, they are putting in the security rules just in case they need to react. The obvious non-reaction in Pattaya was part of the problem there and they don’t want to see that happen again. I think if the red shirts come to make trouble, they’ll be locked up in a hurry. That’s what clarifying these rules…really is.”
Another posting reads: “Can’t really see this having any impact on tourist activities. Expect there will be a big police and military presence and checkpoints. On the up-side, it will likely be a very safe time to visit Phuket.”
Yet another has someone saying he wouldn’t be surprised if there were extra delays at Immigration/Customs clearance.
However, apart from ThaiVisa.Com, it is surprisingly difficult to find much information about the ASEAN meetings on the Internet.
Googling the words ’42nd Asean Phuket’ should result in a flood of information, but no matter what keyword combination you use, the official website 14thaseansummit.org, which should be the ultimate authority on the meetings, doesn’t even make the front page in the search results.
So it’s difficult to find out what the meetings themselves are all about. Though the schedule can be found on the official website, there are no answers to questions you might want to ask. The only thing that seems to surface is news reports on security measures.
Nor is there any mention of the fact that Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya is facing terrorism charges related to the shutting down of Suvarnabhumi Airport last year. Clearly, everybody inside the ministry is closely guarding this secret because, after all, the Thai Foreign Minister is the key person in the ASEAN event.
Hopefully, other officials will be like Kasit, who has always been truthful about his role in the airport seizure and who obviously isn’t afraid to be asked about human rights and political security issues by his ASEAN counterparts.
— Nation & Gazette Reporters
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