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A nation betrayed by its own people again

The sequence of events that led to the cancellation of regional summits in Pattaya will cost Thailand heavily

The entire nation was subjected to massive embarrassment when the government was forced to cancel the Asean Summit in Pattaya after red-clad protesters stormed the venue, the Royal Cliff Beach Resort. On TV last night, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva expressed regret for what happened and personally apologised to each and every East Asian leader attending the summit.

They were supposed to have sat down and sorted out the region's economic problems and come up with concrete proposals to help stimulate the regional economies. In the process, they would have been able to help all peoples in the region to overcome the economic difficulties confronting them. For instance, the leaders from Japan and China were planning to announce their new stimulus and assistance plans.

However, the opportunity to find answers was lost, not only undermining Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's leadership but also leaving the whole nation shamed. The young prime minister should have acted more boldly in blocking the protesters both in Bangkok and Pattaya long before the summit. When he decided to declare the state of emergency in Pattaya yesterday afternoon, it was too late because the protesters had already stormed the venue.

Supporters of fugitive former PM Thaksin Shinawatra sadly decided to use the same disgraceful tactics as the People's Alliance for Democracy did last year when they seized the two Bangkok airports, Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang. All this despite the fact that these very red shirts had condemned the airport blockades as being damaging to the country. Perhaps, it was sheer lunacy.

Blocking the motorcades of the Asean delegations and breaking into the summit venue incurred even more losses and hurt Thailand even further as it concerned the security of the leaders from Asean and dialogue partners. Asean leaders should have been able to discuss the next step in cooperation with its dialogue partners on ways and means to improve and speed up recovery. It would have been a nice beginning too because Asean now has a charter and the leaders are committed to comply with all obligations.

Earlier in the day, foreign ministers from China, South Korea and Japan were unable to leave their hotels and their scheduled meeting had to be cancelled. Shortly after the meeting was cancelled, one of the red-shirt protesters, Arisman Pongruengrong, embarrassed Thais even further by holding a press conference and declaring triumph. Even red-shirt leaders like Jatuporn Prompan said they had won and welcomed the cancellation, saying the only damage incurred was broken glass at the Royal Cliff Beach Resort.

Are they insane? They have completely wrecked not only the country's reputation, but further endangered Thai democracy. Abhisit was right in declaring them the enemies of Thailand. He must be bolder and firmer in restoring law and order from now on.

Sadly, these red-shirt leaders failed to realise that apart from the broken glass, they had also caused damage to not just Thailand but also any regional efforts to join forces and solve problems for their people. It shows that Thaksin's supporters very unwisely chose to fight for one person's personal issues instead of keeping the country's interests in mind.

This was perhaps the worst and most severe incident in the history of Asean meetings. No other Asean country would allow such a thing to take place. Now that Thailand was forced to cancel this highly anticipated meeting, it will not be easy for it to regain the same level of confidence again, especially since the incident has been reported worldwide.

As the nation tried to recover from the damage caused by airport closures last year, Asean and East Asian leaders came to Thailand to show their solidarity and confidence in the government. However, even though they showed up in force to help Thailand, our very own people completely sabotaged their goodwill and efforts.

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