ASEAN summit shies away from Thai veg fest, piercings

ASEAN summit shies away from Thai veg fest, piercings Bangkok, Aug 14 : The venue for the October summit of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) has been shifted away from Phuket because of its conflict with the Thai island's piercings-laden vegetarian festival, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said Friday.

Phuket's Vegetarian Festival, of Hindu origin, involves gruesome body piercing, including running sharp objects through the cheeks, by participants who purportedly fall into a trancelike state to allow gods of Chinese origin to enter them as they march in white robes through the island's main town.

Foreign affairs ministry sources said they had run into problems trying to book sufficient hotel rooms for participants on Phuket, one of Thailand's most popular beach resorts, which holds its annual Vegetarian Festival Oct 18-26.

The ASEAN Summit, to be held Oct 23-25, is to be moved instead at another beach resort, Cha-am/Hua Hin, 130 km south of Bangkok.

Thailand, as current chair of 10-member ASEAN, is obliged to host two summits this year, but the kingdom's rambunctious political scene has made summit scheduling unpredictable.

A summit originally scheduled to be held in the northern city of Chiang Mai in December was derailed by anti-government demonstrations in which Bangkok's two airports were seized, scuttling the summit along with the previous government. That summit was finally held in Cha-am/Hua Hin Feb 28 to March 1.

A follow-up summit with ASEAN partners China, Japan and South Korea was planned to be held in Phuket in April but had to be shifted to the Pattaya beach resort because of the traditional Thai New Year, which meant Phuket's hotelswere fully booked.

That summit was abruptly interrupted there, however, sending 13 heads of state packing, when anti-government protestors raided the meeting's venue in Pattaya, raising security concerns.

Given the problems that Thai governments have had controlling protestors of late, the idea of holding a summit in Bangkok has been deemed out of the question.

ASEAN includes Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

--- IANS

No comments: