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Olympic Torch Relay Concludes Bangkok Leg, Heads to Malaysia


The Olympic torch relay through the streets of Thailand's capital, Bangkok, went off peacefully amid tight security. As Ron Corben reports, a small group of Tibetan rights activists verbally clashed with a larger gathering of pro-China demonstrators.

The 10-kilometer torch relay that began in Bangkok's Chinatown went off largely peacefully with over 2,000 Thai police imposing tight security and the authorities issuing tough warnings of arrest and possible deportation for attempts to disrupt the relay.

As the Olympic Torch passed along a main Bangkok thoroughfare Saturday, about 100 Tibetan rights campaigners verbally clashed with a group of almost 200 supporters of China.

Pokpong Lawansiri from Thailand's Free Tibet Network says Saturday's protests were backed by several non-government organizations in Thailand and were aimed at sending a message to China's government as well as raising awareness of China's human rights policies.

"We want to raise awareness among the Thai public that basic human rights violations are happening," he said. "It's a coalition of human rights groups, student groups, and a lot of NGOs mostly young human rights activists."

Banners calling for a "Free Tibet" and "Stop Killing in Tibet" were unfurled outside the United Nations Buildings in central Bangkok.

Tashi Jurme is a Tibetan businessman who now lives in Taiwan. He says he hopes the world community will take action to address human rights concerns in Tibet.

"I want the world to know what is going on in Tibet, and the world should take action," he said. "It's very simple. We need just basic human rights. Basic human rights [are] not in China. So that's a very simple message."

But the Tibetan group's message was blunted by young Chinese shouting "China, Come on" and "Olympics, Come on."

Thai police kept the groups apart, and there was no violence.

The torch relay ahead of the Beijing Olympics has been a focus of Tibetan rights protests especially after a crackdown in March by Chinese security following riots in the Tibetan capital Lhasa.

The flame travels to Malaysia Sunday where authorities there have deployed an elite police squad to ensure protection for the torch. From Malaysia the flame continues to Indonesia, Australia, South Korea, Japan and Vietnam before heading, finally, to China for the summer games.

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