Olympic flame arrives in Thailand

The Olympic flame, symbol of the Beijing 2008 Games, arrived in Bangkok early Friday. Thai authorities hope for a trouble-free leg of the torch relay after high-security outings in Pakistan and India. Dean Adams reports.


The Olympic flame arrived in Bangkok early Friday for what Thai authorities hope will be a trouble-free leg of the torch relay after high-security outings in Pakistan and India.

The symbol of the Beijing 2008 Games is on the latest stop of its world tour, which organisers are hoping will be largely free of the embarrassing protests it faced in Europe and the United States earlier this month.

The torch and its entourage of Chinese security arrived by charter plane at Bangkok's military airport about 2:40 am (1940 GMT Thursday) from India, where up to 180 Tibetan activists were arrested during a short relay in New Delhi.

About 30 Thais of Chinese descent came out to welcome the torch, waving Chinese and Olympic flags as the plane came in to land, witnesses said.

On Saturday afternoon, 80 Thai torchbearers will carry the flame for about 10 kilometres (six miles) through Bangkok's Chinatown, where it will be protected by thousands of police and soldiers.

Police said Thursday that Thai authorities were ready to deport any foreign activists who came to Bangkok to try and disrupt the relay.

"If they are coming here and engaging in unlawful acts, they must be prosecuted," national police spokesman Lieutenant General Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit told AFP.

"If they engage in illegal activity, we will proceed according to the law by revoking their visa ... We have prepared everything to ensure the smoothness of the ceremony."

The torch will be kept in a hotel in downtown Bangkok under Chinese guard. The main ceremony and parade begins at 3:00 pm (0800 GMT) on Saturday.

Early stages of the torch relay in London, Paris and San Francisco were overshadowed by demonstrations over China's crackdown on unrest in Tibet in March and the nation's human rights record.

Other legs, including a ceremony and relay around a stadium in the Pakistani capital on Wednesday, passed without incident.

One of Thailand's 80 torchbearers -- environmental activist Narisa Chakrabongse -- has already pulled out of the Bangkok relay in protest.

A spokeswoman from a coalition of Thai human rights groups told AFP that they planned a small demonstration on Saturday and were finalising the details.

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