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Southeast Asia's regional 10-nation brotherhood, ASEAN, has not had a good month.
Their last meeting in the seaside town of Pattaya was cancelled after a protest faction stormed the resort housing world leaders. Thousands of protesters overtaking soldiers, running amok in the lobby and freaking out pudgy foreigners in swimming trunks is not a good look.
Neither is forcing prime ministers to escape via helicopter fall-of-Saigon style from the hotel roof.
After the siege, I wondered aloud whether these shenanigans would scare off U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from coming to a big-time ASEAN summit this summer. The Southeast Asian press cried "snub" when Condoleezza Rice failed to show up to a few key gatherings.
I thought perhaps the siege of ASEAN's last meeting would scare Hillary away.
But she has apparently confirmed that she'll be in Bangkok for the next regional meeting in July.
I guess Hillary's heart don't pump lemonade. She already has experience dodging sniper fire in Bosnia, so no big deal, right?
Symbolically, this is huge for both ASEAN and Thailand's beleaguered government. It shows that the U.S. endorses the association — and demonstrates faith in Thailand's ability to protect one of America's most important figureheads.
Here's to the next summit ending peacefully. These gatherings are supposed to be boring, right? I hope we can keep it that way.
P.S. — Speaking of American figureheads, I went to see Jesse Jackson speak last night at the Foreign Correspondent's Club of Thailand. Packed house. I stepped to the microphone to ask for his thoughts on racism in Asia, specifically the sometimes startling and nonchalant ridicule of people with darker skin.
Poignant question, I thought — someone in the crowd cheered with approval — but the good reverend just wiped his brow with a handkerchief, looked confused and asked me to repeat myself.
Oh well. Any readers care to comment on this?