Philippines want to play regional games

More than a dozen protesters picketed the Thai Embassy on Friday, demanding Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra apologize for suggesting that host Philippines was unfairly favoring its own competitors at the Southeast Asian Games. Jose Cojuangco Jr., president of the Philippine Olympic Committee, denied the allegations, saying "all events are officiated in a very transparent manner." He also criticized Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's call for an investigation.

In Bangkok, Thai government spokesman Suraphong Suebwonglee said Friday that no matter what the Philippines finds in its investigation, it was up to the 11 member countries to decide if the allegations were credible. He said Thailand criticized the judging because the taekwondo competition was not fair to Thais.

The Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee also rejected the criticism, saying that officiating for each contest was conducted by the Southeast Asian Games Federation and its pool of international referees and judges.

Robert Aventajado, Philippine Olympic Committee chairman, told reporters Thursday that Charouck Arirachakaran, secretary-general of Thailand's Olympic Committee, apologized and denied that Thai officials have any complaints. Opposition Rep. Rizza Hontiveros from the left-wing Akbayan party, 15 members of which staged a small protest Friday outside the Thai Embassy, called Thaksin's comments "unstatesmanly," and urged Philippine officials to file a protest.

"We deserve a public apology from the Thai prime minister," Akbayan spokesman Percival Cendana said, adding his comments had caused "so much insult, so much anguish and so much pain" to the Filipino people. As of Thursday, Philippine competitors had won more than a quarter of all the events contested at the 11-nation games, involving sports such as soccer, swimming, baseball and martial arts. With just over half of the games completed, the Philippines has won 66 events, already earning more gold than it did in the entire previous competition two years ago in Hanoi, reports the AP. N.U.

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