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Thailand: Outgoing IMF Chief Hit With Pie

Associated Press
February 13th, 2000

BANGKOK, Thailand -- The outgoing chief of the International Monetary Fund got a rude retirement present Sunday when an American anti-free trade activist penetrated security at a trade conference and hit him with a pie in the face.

Moments before Michel Camdessus was to deliver his last speech as IMF chairman, the activist hurled a fruit-and-cream pie inside the meeting hall where some 190 nations are holding the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development.

The action left Camdessus -- seen by many activists as Public Enemy No. 1 for dictating financial policies to poor countries -- and Thailand's tough-talking security officials with pie on their faces. Camdessus has been a prime target of both Thai and foreign anti-free trade activists gathered in Bangkok to demonstrate at the conference, seeking to repeat protests that derailed the World Trade Organization summit in Seattle last year.

The pie-thrower, who identified himself as Robert Reuel Naiman, 34, of Washington, D.C., said he performed the stunt to give the IMF chief ''a friendly reminder of what we think of his policies and to give a warning to his successor we expect different policies.''

Camdessus was chatting to delegates in the main conference hall before making a keynote speech when Naiman snuck up beside him and threw a pie with a shout of ''Happy Birthday!''

''It was a small cake, very tasty,'' Naiman told the ITV television network before he was taken away by security.

Naiman had managed to sneak his projectile through a tight security cordon around the Queen Sirikit Convention Center, the site of the conference. Thai police have kept demonstrators away from the immediate area. Naiman was being questioned by U.N. security officials inside the center. National Police Chief Gen. Pracha Promnok said it would be up to the United Nations if they wished to file criminal charges and prosecute him.

''I'm disappointed,'' said Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan. ''It's absolutely impossible to prevent such an incident. We have left no stone unturned in our planning and preparation. We have been able to prevent bigger problems.''

The Brussels-based group said it had staged similar attacks at international conferences and called the attack a ''slight and sweet embarrassment'' compared to the tremendous suffering inflicted on poor countries by the IMF.

Naiman, who described himself only as a ''private citizen,'' said that he had been at the WTO meeting in Seattle, which ended in acrimony when anti-free trade activists clashed violently with police.

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