November 1, 2019 / 10:10 AM / 19 days ago

Security tight in Thai capital ahead of Southeast Asia summit

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand mobilized more than 17,000 security officers on Friday ahead of a three-day summit of Southeast Asian and other international leaders in Bangkok, guarding against attacks after a dozen explosions marred another regional meeting in August.

Police officers are seen outside the venue for the upcoming the 35th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok, Thailand, November 1, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Several roads surrounding the main meeting venue for leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the East Asia Summit (EAS) in Nonthaburi, north of Bangkok, have been cordoned off since Thursday.

Some 5,000 officers are assigned to the main venue alone, the assistant national police chief, Damrongsak Kittiprapas, told Reuters.

Security is a major concern for Thai authorities after a series of bomb attacks in Bangkok in August as the city hosted a meeting of Southeast Asian foreign ministers. That meeting was also attended by top diplomats from the United States, China and other world powers.

No one was killed in August, but four people were wounded from the attacks that police said were linked to domestic politics. Suspects arrested or wanted by the police in relation to the attacks have ties to the insurgency in Thailand’s Muslim-majority south that has killed nearly 7,000 since 2004.

“We will not allow a repeat of the bomb attacks that took place during the previous international meeting,” Damrongsak said.

“We are monitoring all risky areas and are intensifying intelligence gathering,” he said. “So far, there is no sign of any untoward activities or any threatening movements.”

Leaders of the 10 member countries of ASEAN will meet on Saturday and Sunday, and then attend the East Asia Summit on Monday that includes officials from Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, the United States and Russia.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is confirmed for the East Asia meeting, while the United States has downgraded its participation in the summit by sending Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, who will represent President Donald Trump.

International trade and issues like the South China Sea dispute and the plight of ethnic Rohingya fleeing Myanmar are some of the issues expected to be discussed at the summits.

Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Tom Hogue

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