The Spirit of Anti-Capitalist Protest keeps Rolling!
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Sun May 7 19:30:26 MDT 2000
Asian Bank Meeting Draws Protest
Story Filed: Sunday, May 07, 2000 2:24 PM EDT
CHIANG MAI, Thailand (AP) -- Thousands of demonstrators plowed their way
past Thai riot police Sunday, besieging the Asian Development Bank's annual
meeting and demanding an end to policies they said punish the poor.
Meanwhile, the United States cautiously welcomed an agreement reached
between 13 Asian nations to rescue each other's currencies in order to fend
off economic crises like the upheaval that struck the region in 1997.
The United States and Japan also ruled out membership in the bank for North
Korea, rebuffing a South Korean appeal. Seoul's finance minister had asked
for help in bringing the reclusive North into the international financial
system as a way of possibly increasing stability on the Korean peninsula.
Outside, 4,000 protesters, inspired by earlier demonstrations against global
economic institutions in Seattle and Washington, D.C., caught police by
surprise and stormed over barricades to lay siege to the Westin Hotel, where
they meeting was being held.
The demonstrators converged at a narrow bridge leading to the hotel and were
initially stopped by hundreds of police. Then they powered forward and mowed
down crowd-control barriers, pushing police back to mid-span. Women screamed
and shoved for breathing space in the crush.
Police did not use their clubs and eventually allowed the crowd across.
A standoff between protesters across the street from the hotel and about
2,000 police lasted several hours, but there were no further clashes. The
protesters drifted off in the late afternoon to set up camp on the other
side of the Mae Ping river which flows through Chiang Mai.
At least five people were slightly injured in the morning scuffle, but no
one was reported badly hurt. Five protesters were arrested and released.
``It hasn't interrupted any of the meetings going on inside, but we're very
aware of them,'' said N. Cinammon Dornsife, executive director for the U.S.
at the ADB. ``We're definitely keeping an eye on it.''
Kazuo Sumi, a Japanese activist, said one Thai demonstrator had threatened
to commit suicide on the final day of the conference Monday, if the ADB did
not meet their demands.
``We did not plan for this violence, but we knew we had to reach our goal,
in front of the Westin Hotel,'' said Dawan Bhanhasbee, 35.
Like many of the protesters, Dawan lives in the Klong Dan area outside
Bangkok, the capital, where the Manila-based ADB is funding a mammoth
wastewater treatment plant. Nearby villagers say the project will ruin their
Along with 38 non-governmental groups, they demand that the bank stop
funding the project and cease making loans that increase indebtedness of
poor nations and hurt farmers and the poor.
Myoung-ho Shin, an ADB vice president, replied in a letter that the ADB
would study their demands and wanted to meet their leaders in June for
``fruitful talks.'' Protest leaders called it a stall tactic and wanted a
better answer Monday.
Saturday, finance ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast
Asian Nations, Japan, China and South Korea agreed to set up arrangements
that would protect each other's currencies to fend off future economic
Details remain to be filled in, but the plan stops well short of the
proposal by Japan in 1997 to create an Asian monetary fund, which was shot
down by Washington out of concern it would compete with the International
Monetary Fund in rescuing stricken economies.
The more modest proposal, seen as part of a long process to give the region
more cohesion and international clout, was backed Sunday by Edwin M. Truman,
the Treasury Department's assistant secretary for international affairs.
``We have long supported regional cooperation, in this region and others,''
Truman told a news conference.
``We think this is a fine idea. But the nature of financial arrangements
depends on the details.''
Truman and Kiichi Miyazawa, Japan's finance minister, gave a cold shoulder
to South Korea's appeal for the ADB to extend assistance to North Korea.
Truman called North Korea ``an international terrorist state.''
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