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Torch lands in Bangkok, Japanese get jitters
Reuters[Friday, April 18, 2008 15:07]
By Panarat Thepgumpanat

Police arrest a Tibetan exile during a protest near the venue of Olympic torch relay in New Delhi April 17, 2008.
(Stringer/Reuters)
Police arrest a Tibetan exile during a protest near the venue of Olympic torch relay in New Delhi April 17, 2008. (Stringer/Reuters)
BANGKOK, April 18 - The Olympic torch landed amid tight security in the Thai capital of Friday, the latest leg of its world tour, with police saying they were ready to stop any attempt by anti-China activists to put out the flame.

Several groups angry at Beijing's human rights record and its rule in Tibet are planning demonstrations in Bangkok, but will not face any opposition from police as long as they remain orderly, Thai Olympic chief General Yuthasak Sasiprapa said.

"If they are peaceful, it's OK," he told Reuters. "But we will not tolerate any violent or illegal protests. The torch and runners will be tightly escorted by police patrols and motorcycles all along the route."

However, security concerns and anger at Beijing's March crackdown on unrest in Tibet caused an iconic Buddhist temple in central Japan to pull out as the starting point of next week's torch relay in that country.

Zenkoji temple, in Nagano, said it had received 1,000 letters from across Japan calling for its withdrawal from the April 26 parade after the crackdown in Buddhist Tibet, in which monasteries were raided and monks arrested.

People visit Japan's Buddhist Zenkoji Temple in Nagano, central Japan. Monks at the ancient temple have pulled out hosting a ceremony for the protest-marred Olympic torch relay because of China's crackdown in Tibet.
(AFP/JIJI PRESS)
People visit Japan's Buddhist Zenkoji Temple in Nagano, central Japan. Monks at the ancient temple have pulled out hosting a ceremony for the protest-marred Olympic torch relay because of China's crackdown in Tibet. (AFP/JIJI PRESS)
"We needed to think about security, being a temple with national treasures and many visitors," a temple official said.

Japan has already made it clear the Chinese paramilitary guards who have been criticised elsewhere as being heavy-handed in their guarding of the torch will not be welcome.

Throughout its long journey from Greece to the Games' official opening ceremony in Beijing on Aug. 8, the torch has been beset by protests, mainly focusing on Chinese rule in Tibet.

In the previous leg of its swing through Asia, in India, 15,000 police had to be deployed to keep at bay protesters from the world's largest community of exiled Tibetans.

Thai police are bracing for a demonstration of about 100 people outside the regional headquarters of the United Nations, which lies on the 10.5 km (6.5 mile) route from Bangkok's China Town past the golden-spired Grand Palace.

The relay is due to start at 0800 GMT on Saturday and short-cuts and alternative routes have been made ready in case of any "unexpected incidents", Yuthasak said.
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