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Bangkok Demonstrators Protest Against Iraq War, Globalization - 2003-10-19

About 1,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Bangkok Sunday to protest the war in Iraq and globalization, as world leaders convened for the summit meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

About 100 police looked on, as demonstrators peacefully took to the streets, despite an order from Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra banning demonstrations during the summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum, or APEC.

Mr. Thaksin also banned some 700 foreign activists from entering the country during the economic forum.

Canadian protester Sam Barter, who lives in Thailand, says the demonstrators are not only against the war in Iraq and U.S. policies, but also against the policies of APEC.

"A lot of the same actors, economic and state actors that are part of the WTO [World Trade Organization] and the IMF [International Monetary Fund], which I feel have very poor development strategies, are major parts of APEC," said Mr. Barter. "So we'd like them to know, peacefully … that we're here, and we'd like to work with them and try to change the systems that we consider unjust."

Carrying posters of U.S. President George W. Bush, the protesters snaked their way down a main road to a shopping center about two kilometers from the hotel where Mr. Bush is staying.

One man, dressed all in black with a skull mask, says he is against U.S. foreign policy. "I am a Thai," said the demonstrator. "We are here to protest … Mr. George Bush. We are against his policy of aggression and try to make the whole world under his aggressive policy."

Metropolitan police officer Charlie Phakamand said that so long as the demonstrators steer clear of APEC venues, the police will tolerate peaceful protests, which he says are part of Thai tradition.

One man was arrested during the demonstration as he shouted "freedom" and tussled with police.

Security remains tight in the Thai capital to thwart any terrorist attempts during the APEC meeting.