As Thai authorities take measures to avoid anti-China protests during the Olympic torch relay in Bangkok Saturday, FRANCE 24 correspondent Cyril Payen spoke to Narisa Chakrapongse, the first torch bearer to boycott the relay.
The torch relay got underway Saturday amid tight security in Bangkok’s Chinese neighbourhood. More than 2,000 uniformed and plain-clothed Thai police were posted along the 10.5 kilometre route to prevent “unexpected incidents”.
Some 80 sporting and business personalities from Thailand will relay the torch through Bangkok under high surveillance.
But there will be one notable absence. Narisa Chakrapongse of the Green World Foundation is the first torch bearer to have boycotted the event.
FRANCE 24’s Bangkok correspondent Cyril Payen met Chakrapongse, a descendant of the Thai royal family.
“I assumed that, because it was Olympic year, the Chinese government might moderate its stance vis-à-vis Tibet,” she said. “When I realised that this wasn’t going to happen, I decided that I couldn’t carry on. When the torch comes through Bangkok, I’ve no idea what’s going to happen.”
The flame arrived on Friday after a tour through India where more than 200 pro-Tibetan protesters were arrested.
According to Chakrapongse, the Indian leg of the relay – shortened to a third of the planned route – was a ‘complete mockery’. She criticised the ambitious plans for the longest torch relay in Olympic history, saying “China was naïve in thinking that by organising a relay of this scale, there wouldn’t be a protest,” she said.
Thai PM Samak Sundaravej warned that no violent incident would be tolerated, while the country’s police force declared that any foreigner who illegally protests against human rights violations in China could be deported from the country.
Groups of students and human rights activists said they would stage a mock-relay when the Olympic torch passs by the United Nations headquarters in Bangkok.
Since the flame was lit on March 24 in Olympia, the relay has been marred by protests, particularly in London and Paris, putting the spotlight on the situation in Tibet.
Date created : 2008-04-19