By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
BANGKOK — Thailand has again postponed a regional summit of Asian leaders that was twice canceled because of political unrest, the foreign minister said Wednesday.
Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said scheduling conflicts, not security concerns, were behind the decision to put off the meeting of 16 Asia-Pacific leaders again, which had been set for June.
Protesters seeking the resignation of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva forced the cancellation of the summit on April 11 after they stormed the hotel at which meetings were being held in the seaside resort of Pattaya. Some visiting leaders fled by helicopter.
In December, a rival group of protesters shuttered Bangkok's two airports for eight days, forcing the previous government to also postpone the summit.
"Some countries have by-elections, some have general elections while some leaders have a schedule of foreign visits," Kasit said. "No one raised a question about Thailand's capacity to provide security."
Thai officials have proposed to hold the meeting on the resort island of Phuket—an area more distant from the capital and more politically sympathetic to the current government.
Senior officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will discuss the rescheduling later this month, Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat said.
The meeting is to be attended by Asean's 10 member countries and key regional nations—China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.
Meanwhile Thailand's fugitive former leader Thaksin Shinawatra has acquired a passport from Montenegro and is considering buying a resort island there, an adviser said Wednesday.
Removed from power in a 2006 coup, Thaksin has been on the run since he fled Thailand ahead of a corruption conviction last year. Last month, the Thai government revoked the personal passport of Thaksin, whom it accuses of stoking anti-government riots in Bangkok that left two people killed and hundreds wounded.
Noppadon Pattama, a lawyer who has been an adviser to Thaksin, said the ousted prime minister has a Montenegrin passport and at least a few others.
"Leaders of a few countries have given Thaksin passports because they sympathize with his position and know the injustice he suffered," Noppadon said but did not specify which countries have offered him travel documents.
In January, Nicaragua named Thaksin an "Ambassador on a Special Mission" to bring investment to the Central American country and issued him a passport.
Noppadon said Thaksin has also expressed an interest in buying Sveti Nikola island, despite also recently saying he is short on cash since the Thai government froze his assets after convicting him in absentia violating a conflict of interest law while in office.
"He thinks there is a lot of potential there in terms of developing its tourism business," Noppadon said. "But I am not sure about the status and whether he has officially entered a bidding process or anything."
The acquisition of a new passport is expected to further complicated Thailand's efforts to extradite the ousted premier.
Vice Foreign Minister Panich Vikitsreth said the ministry has ordered several Thai embassies to look into confirming the issuance of the passport.
The ministry has earlier submitted extradition requests through diplomatic channels to the United Arab Emirates and Nicaragua to facilitate the repatriation of Thaksin who fled the country before the court issued its verdict and sentenced him to two years in prison.