Sultan at Asean summit
By Azaraimy HH in Hua Hin Thailand

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di Pertuan of Negara Brunei Darussalam last night touched down in Hua Hin Airport prior to attending the formal opening of the 14th Asean Summit today at the resort town of Hua Hin. Accompanying His Majesty to 'the Summit for the people' was His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

On arrival at the Hua Hin Airport, His Majesty was greeted by Mr Suthep Thaugsuban Deputy Minister of Thailand and Mr Panchai Borvornattanapran governor of Prachuap Khiri Khan province, a press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade stated.

Also at the airport was Dato Paduka Hj Kamis bin Haji Tamin Ambassador-Designate of Brunei Darussalam to Thailand, and officials of the Embassy of Brunei Darussalam in Bangkok.

The 14th Asean Summit is scheduled to start today and will be attended by Asean Heads of State and Government. Prior to the summit, a Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines-East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) Summit will be held, followed by a series of Meetings between Asean Heads of State and Government and Asean Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) Representatives, Asian Youth Representatives, and Asian Civil Society Representatives.

The theme of this year's Asean Summit is "Asean Charter for Asean Peoples". The Asean Heads of State and Government will have the opportunity to discuss Asean's cooperation and its future direction as well as exchange views on regional and international concerns.

Meanwhile yesterday afternoon at the Brunei International Airport, members of the royal family were also present to bid farewell to His Majesty. Among them were, His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, The Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office, His Royal Highness Prince Sufri Bolkiah and His Royal Highness Prince Abdul Malik.

Cabinet ministers too were present to bid farewell, as well as Phithak Phrombubpha, the Ambassador-Designate of Thailand to Brunei.

A doa selamat was recited by the State Mufti, Pehin Datu Seri Maharaja Dato Paduka Seri Setia Dr Ustaz Hj Abdul Aziz Juned prior to His Majesty's departure.

In the days prior to the arrival of heads of state/government yesterday, Thailand had beefed up its security systems. Tight security was visibly intensified yesterday with the arrival of the Asean top leaders. The Weekend Bulletin reporters observed naval ships appearing to close in on this coastal town of Hua Hin yesterday.

Security sources told The Weekend Bulletin that Thailand had deployed 5,000 police officers plus nearly 2,000 military personnel to provide protection for the Asean leaders who gathered for the meetings.

Before the formal opening of 14th Asean Summit today, His Majesty the Sultan is scheduled to hold various meetings, including Asean Heads Informal Meeting with Asean Inter-Parliamentary, Aseans Heads Informal meeting with Asean Youth, Asean Heads Informal Meeting with Asean Civil Society.

After the formal inauguration, His Majesty the Sultan and His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah are scheduled to have working lunch with Asean ABAC.

His Majesty the Sultan is also scheduled to conduct a bilateral meeting with the new Thai Prime Minister and another separate bilateral meeting with the Philippines Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, on the eve of the summit, the 10 Asean countries signed a major free trade agreement with Australia and New Zealand in a deal that is aimed at curbing the adverse effects of the current global economic downturn.

While the deal provides access to Australia and New Zealand to the combined Asean market of nearly 600 million people, it is also considered to be one of the most wide ranging agreement ever signed by the these countries. The accord covers trade in merchandise, services, investments, e-Commerce, telecom, intellectual property and economic cooperation.

The 13th Asean Summit and its related summits were previous held in Singapore in November 2007. - Borneo Bulletin (28th Feb 2009)