Tight security for Thai torch relay

Olympic flame arrives in Bangkok on latest leg of global relay dogged by protests.

    Saturday's relay through the Thai capital is due to begin in the city's Chinatown district [EPA]

    A police helicopter will follow the 10.5-kilometer relay through Bangkok on Saturday as authorities hope to avoid a repetition of chaotic scenes when anti-China activists disrupted the relay in San Francisco, Paris and London.

     

    Police motorcycles will ride beside the torch runners along with police vans in case the athletes need to jump inside for safety, said General Yuttasak Sasiprapha, president of the National Olympic Committee of Thailand.

     

    The Thai military will also monitor the relay, expected to last just under three hours, said Yuttasak, declining to detail the military's involvement.

     

    "Supporters of the Tibetan cause have the right to express their views but not to thwart the relay. We will not tolerate that", he said.

     

    Police outnumbered spectators when tight security
    blanketed the torch relay in India [GALLO/GETTY]

    The route in Bangkok could be changed and shortened at the last minute if protesters try to disrupt the relay.

     

    Authorities have warned that any foreign activists involved in efforts to disrupt the event will be deported.

     

    Chinese security officials escorted the torch on a charter flight that landed early on Friday at a military airport outside Bangkok.

     

    At its previous stop in India a 15,000-strong security contingent vastly outnumbered spectators during the torch relay through Delhi and scores of Tibetan protesters were arrested.

     

    The torch is scheduled to leave Thailand for Malaysia on Saturday night.

     

    Safety fears

     

    In a separate development meanwhile a major Japanese Buddhist temple has said it is pulling out of plans to host the torch relay when it arrives in Japan, citing safety concerns and sympathy among its monks and worshippers for Tibetan protesters.

     

    The monks of Zenkoji Temple in Nagano were concerned about the safety of the temple and its worshippers should the April 26 relay in Japan spark demonstrations, said Koichi Yajima, a city official.

     

    An official at the temple's secretariat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the temple and its worshippers were also concerned about the treatment of fellow Buddhists in Tibet.

     

    "There has been a lot of talk about the Tibet issue and the public opinion is heightening,'' she said.

     

    "We are Buddhists just like them. We hear words of concern from many people every day.''

    SOURCE: Agencies


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