Thailand postpones ASEAN summit amid political chaos

Thailand's outgoing cabinet on Tuesday agreed to postpone the 14th summit of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), which was scheduled for mid-December in Chiang Mai, to an unspecified date next year,reported dpa.

"It has definitely been postponed, but until when, will require consultations with the other ASEAN members," Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat said.

"March is an option," he added.

The Thai cabinet met in Chiang Mai, 550 kilometres north of Bangkok, Tuesday morning and decided to postpone hosting the ASEAN summit, just hours before they lost their posts.

Thailand's Constitution Court in a verdict announced mid-day Tuesday dissolved the ruling People Power Party and two allied parties - Chart Thai and Matchimathipataya - after finding them guilty of colluding in election fraud in the December 23, 2007 polls.

The verdict effectively put an end to the premiership of Somchai Wongsawat and his entire cabinet, leaving no government in place to host the upcoming ASEAN summit.

Thailand has been reeling from its worst political crisis in decades after six months of anti-government protests culminated in demonstrators seizing Bangkok's two airports, a tactic that has brought the country to its knees.

Security personnel have refused to crack down on the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which is leading the protests, because the movement is known to enjoy the backing of members of Thailand's political elite, including leaders of the army.

Given the political chaos, the postponement of the of the planned ASEAN summit on December 15-17 has been anticipated for weeks.

Diplomatic sources said Thailand can postpone the summit by a few months without infringing ASEAN etiquette. Thailand holds the chair of the 10-nation regional bloc through 2009.

Previously, each country held the rotating chairmanship for one year, from July to June, but under the newly ratified ASEAN charter that will take on January 1, Thailand will keep the chair for 18 months until the end of next year, a senior ASEAN diplomat said.

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