Thai PM plans overseas tour despite protests
Fri, Mar 26, 2010

BANGKOK, March 26, 2010 (AFP) - Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Friday he will begin a series of overseas visits next week, despite ongoing anti-government protests in Bangkok.

Abhisit said he will pay a one-day visit to Brunei on Monday before flying to the Gulf state of Bahrain on Tuesday where he will spend two days.

"At this moment I reaffirm my overseas trips will go ahead because both countries are important and I have postponed my visit to Brunei several times," he said.

"If the situation is like this I can go, but I will certainly have to assess the situation on Saturday, Sunday," he said, as protesters loyal to ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra planned a weekend rally.

Abhisit said the trip to Bahrain would focus on economic links and maintaining ties with the Islamic world, as Thailand struggles to handle a six-year separatist insurgency in its largely Muslim southern provinces.

The premier will also attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Hanoi, April 7-9, before travelling to the United States for US President Barack Obama's nuclear security summit in Washington, April 12-13.

Abhisit already cancelled visits to Australia and New Zealand this month due to the rolling demonstrations by red-shirted Thaksin supporters which began on March 14.

The premier has been forced to remain holed up in a military barracks in the capital's northern outskirts, but has made two trips to parliament this week, with barbed wire surrounding the building and armed soldiers stationed outside.

The Red Shirts have vowed to continue to hound Abhisit to press their demand for immediate elections and are planning to parade through Bangkok this weekend, allowing protesters to decide on final plans Saturday.

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