- The Washington Times - Monday, November 4, 2002

BANGKOK U.S.-trained Thai security forces, who usually tackle drug smugglers, black marketeers and other criminals, are protecting Thailand's international tourists from a Bali-style attack.
Hundreds of backpackers who celebrated a monthly Full Moon Party, where many dance all night on the beach of Pha Ngan island, were surprised to find themselves guarded by police to ensure no foreign ravers were killed by terrorists.
"We were on alert all night, fearing a tragic event," Provincial Police Chief Pichai Sunthornsatchabul said of the Oct. 22 event.
"We are so relieved that nothing happened."
Security concerns once again took center stage this weekend as leaders of Southeast Asian nations gathered in Cambodia for a two-day summit that begins today.
The leaders, determined to send a message that the region is safe for foreign tourists and investors, issued a statement yesterday saying:
"We resolve to intensify our efforts, collectively and individually, to prevent, counter and suppress the activities of terrorist groups in the region."
Several foreign governments have warned their citizens about the risks of traveling in Thailand after an explosion in Bali, Indonesia, killed more than 190 people on Oct. 12.
Thailand has many tourist-packed islands, including its own version of Bali: gorgeous, sun-drenched Phuket island.
"We know from the Bali experience you just can't be too cautious, and we've had some information in relation to Phuket," Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said.
"There are risks that places like Phuket could be attacked by terrorists," Mr. Downer said.
"Phuket is safe for tourists, but we are taking action to make sure there is no carelessness or complacency," Phuket Gov. Pongpayome Vasaputi said.
Denmark, which holds the presidency of the European Union, also cautioned tourists against traveling to Thailand, as did Sweden, Norway, Germany, Japan and other governments.
They warned against visiting Thailand's ubiquitous, neon-lit, sprawling zones of bars and nightclubs, which are popular among tourists.
All of Thailand's tourist centers Bangkok, Phuket, Koh Samui, Pattaya, Chiang Mai and elsewhere have friendly, bustling night markets that combine shops, restaurants, bars, massage parlors and other entertainment strewn along crowded, well-lit streets.
Souvenirs include T-shirts displaying President Bush and Osama bin Laden shouting at each other.
"Thailand is a safe country," Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said.
Thai and foreign security forces are also concerned about Khao San Road, which is perpetually jammed with thousands of international backpackers.
Khao San Road, in downtown Bangkok, is hailed as one of Asia's legendary "Three K's" for budget travelers seeking cheap, tourist-friendly venues.
The two other K's are Nepal's capital, Katmandu, and Bali's Kuta Beach, where the deadly explosion occurred.
Both Thai and foreign security forces are concerned that al Qaeda-linked extremists may infiltrate the south, through Muslim Malaysia, and attack tourist sites.

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