China View, XinhuaNet, China
Clashes briefly interrupt Thai-U.S. FTA talks in Chiang Mai
10 January 2006
BANGKOK, Jan. 10 (Xinhuanet) — Small clashes between Thai police and demonstrators on Tuesday briefly interrupted the sixth round of negotiations on the proposed Free Trade Area (FTA) agreement between Thailand and the United States which ran into the second day in Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, reported the Thai News Agency.
The skirmish occurred when some 50 protesters opposing the Thai-U.S. FTA pact and gathering at Chiang Mai’s Sheraton Hotel, the venue for the talks, swam across the Mae Ping River, trying to approach the back of the hotel located alongside the riverbank. They were blocked by police units about two meters away from the hotel compound.
Sporadic clashes lasted for several minutes but caused no injuries and the police were successful in keeping control of the situation.
In the meantime, in front of the hotel, some 300 demonstrators approached the police lines and tried to push their way into the hotel.
The incidents forced negotiators inside the hotel to halt their talks for a while. The talks resumed after the Thai chief negotiator Nitya Pibunsongkram came out to talk with representatives of the protesters.
Nitya told the protesters that the Thai negotiators realized the protesters’ concerns over the FTA pact and would do their best in the negotiations with regard to the utmost benefit and interest of the country, but they could not abandon the negotiations as demanded by the protesters since it was the government’s policy and prerogative to make the decision.
He said if the negotiation was scrapped, Thailand would lose substantial benefit. Nitya also affirmed that Thailand had not agreed to any conditions concerning intellectual property rights, a major concern expressed by the protesters.
The protesters expressed their dissatisfaction with the chief negotiator, and said they would continue their protest until their demand was met.