PATTAYA, Thailand, (Agencies) - Thai protesters smashed their way into a major Asian summit Saturday, forcing the countrys embattled Prime Minister to cancel the meeting and evacuate foreign leaders by helicopter. Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva lifted a state of emergency which he had earlier declared in the beach resort of Pattaya after thousands of demonstrators stormed the convention centre, which was supposed to focus on the financial crisis and North Koreas rocket launch, where the leaders were gathering. Images of protesters streaming into the convention centre, riding escalators and waving Thai, were broadcast. Officials did not say if or when the Asean summit would resume - it has already been postponed and shifted to new venues several times in an attempt to dodge the protest threat. Choppers plucked dignitaries from the roof of the luxury hotel venue after the red-shirted supporters of ousted Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra breached police lines, broke down glass doors and streamed into the building unopposed. The govt has a duty to take care of the leaders, who will depart from Thailand, Abhisit said in a sombre nationwide address broadcast live across all Thai television channels. The meeting - the biggest international gathering since the G20 summit in London earlier this month - grouped the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) with China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand. Protesters said they had run out of patience with Abhisits refusal to bow to their demands for his resignation, and that they were angry at the wounding of several supporters in earlier clashes with pro-government rivals. The 'Red Shirts have been asking him to resign for four months and we decided that now was the time to push him, Pichet Sukjindatong, one of the protest leaders, told AFP inside the building. Hooting horns and triumphantly chanting slogans, anti-government protesters decked out in red pushed past lines of troops who carried shields and batons but offered little resistance. They toppled metal detectors, smashed reception tables and left behind small polls of blood where some had been injured by glass. About 100 demonstrators got as far as the driveway of an adjacent building where Asean leaders were holding a lunch meeting to thrash out a new schedule for the talks, after protest blockades had scrapped the mornings itinerary. Hotel staff quickly cleared the restaurants and hustled bikini-clad tourists out of the pool as the protesters staged a sit-in rally at the heart of the summit, blocked by security forces with flak jackets and shotguns. Within minutes of the cancellation, several foreign leaders including Philippine President Gloria Arroyo and Abhisit himself were airlifted to a nearby military airbase where emergency planes were on standby. The demonstrators soon dispersed and within hours all the visiting leaders had been evacuated. Abhisit made a surprise return to the summit venue late Saturday to say the state of emergency had been lifted. We apologise to the Thai people that this incident happened. Even though the government was not responsible, it is its duty to ensure the meeting runs smoothly, he said after being escorted in by scores of soldiers. Thaksin, a billionaire tycoon who is living in exile to avoid a jail term for corruption, later addressed around 15,000 supporters in Bangkok by telephone from an unknown foreign location, police said. I thank the Red Shirts in Pattaya who showed strength. In the next few days we will see real change, he said. Red Shirts in Bangkok and elsewhere must now act immediately so that we can change our country.