Mon, Apr 13, 2009 - Page 4 News List

Asian summit provides plenty to scoff at

AFP , PATTAYA, THAILAND

The lobster had been grilled to perfection, the lights were low and the music tinkled softly in the background — all that was missing were the 16 foreign leaders.

Instead, reporters, junior officials and even a few soldiers in camouflage tucked into a gourmet dinner intended for heads of state after protests forced the cancelation of a major Asian summit in the Thai beach town of Pattaya.

The intended guests of honor — including Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) and Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso — had been airlifted out of the hotel venue hours earlier after 1,000 anti-government protesters smashed their way in.

Waitresses in traditional outfits glided around the grand ballroom in the five-star Royal Cliff Beach Resort on Saturday night serving their new guests after the Thai government decided not to let the food go begging.

“The hotel arrangements had all been made and rather than letting everything that was prepared go to waste it was decided to invite people who were still at the venue,” Thai foreign ministry official Thani Thongpakdee said.

On the menu were local delicacies including mango salad, fried catfish, Tom Yam Kai (a spicy chicken soup), Kai Pad (fried chicken with cashew nuts), beef red curry and, of course, the lobster, reporters said.

A live performance of traditional Thai music was canceled, however, after the band that was scheduled to perform fled the advancing red-shirted demonstrators earlier in the day, officials said.

The only other missing element was wine — one bottle of red was available for a table of high-ranking officials but for everyone else it was soft drinks on tap.

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