Amid anti-govt protests in Bangkok, APEC leaders call for enhanced cooperation

Amid anti-government protests in Central Bangkok, leaders of 21-member Asia Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) pledged to boost trade and do more to tackle other economic challenges.

Meanwhile, Police in Thailand fired rubber bullets to disperse a crowd protesting against the Asia Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) in Bangkok on Friday, a police official in charge of the summit’s security taskforce told Reuters.

About 350 protesters had gathered and clashed with police, Ashyan Kraithong said, about 10 km (6 miles) from the venue where leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group are meeting.

Videos on social media showed protesters trying to overturn a police car, throwing projectiles and charging at police, while officers in riot gear advanced on them with shields and beat them back with batons.

Youth activist Patsaravalee ‘Mind’ Tanakitvibulpon, who was at the demonstration, said people were protesting against the APEC summit and Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.

“The police have overreacted. They are using rubber bullets on us and tried to stop us many times,” he told Reuters.

“The protesters broke the law, physically assaulted police officers,” Ashyan said, adding that five officers were injured.

Meanwhile, leaders of the 21-member APEC bloc pledged on Saturday to boost trade and do more to tackle other economic challenges. The summit’s conclusion meant wrapping up of the last of three summits in the region in a week that have been overshadowed by intense geopolitical rivalry dominated by the war in Ukraine.

The summits have been attended by global leaders, and the talks have often been disrupted by friction spilling over from the war in Ukraine as well as flashpoints such as the Taiwan strait and the Korean peninsula.

A Southeast Asian summit that included China, Japan and the United States was held in Cambodia, while the Group of 20 (G20) major economies met on the Indonesian island of Bali.

The APEC meeting was interrupted on Friday when Vice President Kamala Harris, who is heading the U.S. delegation, called an emergency gathering of allies on the sidelines to condemn North Korea after it test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States.

On Saturday, Thai Prime Minister and APEC chair Prayuth Chan-ocha sought to bring the focus back to economic issues and said APEC made “significant progress” by agreeing a multi-year work plan for a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP).

(With inputs from agencies)

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