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ASEAN summit to open Friday without four leaders.

HUA HIN, Thailand, Oct. 22 Kyodo

The annual summit of the Association of Southeast Asian nations will begin Friday morning in Thailand, but without four of the 10 leaders.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will be absent due to pressing matters at home.

They will miss the opening ceremony of the 15th ASEAN Summit and three informal meetings with representatives from the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, youths and civil society, an inauguration ceremony for the group's human rights mechanism -- the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights -- and a working lunch with representatives from the regional business sector.

Hun Sen, who is busy with South Korean President Lee Myung Bak's official visit, is set to arrive in Hua Hin at 4 p.m. Friday, while Yudhoyono, who has just been inaugurated for a second term, will arrive at 8.30 p.m., following by Najib and Arroyo at 9 p.m.

They are all expected to join other ASEAN leaders at an informal working dinner scheduled from 7-10 p.m.

Vitavas Srivihok, director general of Thailand's ASEAN Affairs office, told reporters the Indonesian president must meet with his new Cabinet lineup while Malaysian premier has a parliamentary budget session to attend.

At the dinner, the ASEAN leaders are expected to discuss regional and international issues of common concern.

High on agenda for this year summit is the plan for a meeting between the ASEAN leaders and U.S. President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Singapore.

The U.S. administration George W. Bush had declined to sit with the leader of Myanmar's notorious junta.

ASEAN is now, however, enthusiastic about Obama's reengagement policy with Asia.

A declaration is expected to be issued by ASEAN leaders to strengthen regional cooperation on education.

Among many others, they will pledge to ''develop a common content on ASEAN for schools as a reference for teacher training and teaching,'' according to a draft seen by Kyodo News.

They will also seek greater mobility of skilled workers in the region, according to the draft.

On Saturday, they are to meet their counterparts from Japan, China and South Korea on a bilateral basis and also in the platform called the ASEAN-Plus-Three.

On Sunday, leaders from India, Australia and New Zealand will join the ASEAN leaders and the three leaders from Northeast Asia for the East Asia Summit where they are expected to discuss climate change, food and fuel security and collaboration on disaster management.

The Hua Hin summits will be held amid heavy security since the Thai host hopes to prevent disruptions by antigovernment protesters who stormed into the summit venue in April in Pattaya, another seaside resort on the eastern coast of Thailand.

Since Oct. 12, the Thai government has imposed a tough security law in Hua Hin and Cha-am, the two popular beach areas where delegates from 16 countries live during the summit

The Internal Security Act gives the military a role in supporting police to suppress crowds.

The ASEAN-hosted summit meetings were postponed from April after antigovernment protesters forced their abrupt cancellation by storming a hotel in Pattaya where it was to be held.

At the time, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva declared a state of emergency in Pattaya while the leaders of ASEAN and its dialogue partners from outside the 10-member group had to be evacuated by helicopter from the rooftops of hotels or by Thai navy vessels.

The protesters, who support former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted in a 2006 coup, have said they plan to stage rallies against Abhisit's government later this month, including one set for Oct. 17 in Bangkok.

At a press conference in Bangkok, Arisman Phongruangrong said he would lead a small group of people to Phetchaburi Province's Puek Tian beach, just next to Cha-am beach Friday and they want to submit a letter to a high-level representative of ASEAN to explain the April incident in Pattaya.

The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship has organized numerous rallies against the coalition government led by Abhisit.

They demand Abhisit step down, for the House of Representatives to be dissolved and for Thaksin, who is now a fugitive, to be pardoned.

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

ASEAN leaders last met among themselves from Feb. 28 to March 1 in Hua Hin and Cha-am.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Geographic Code:9THAI
Date:Oct 26, 2009
Words:745
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