04/19/2008, 00.00
CHINA - THAILAND
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The torch is in Bangkok, Beijing "tightens up" on visas

The government of Thailand allows protest demonstrations "that remain peaceful". The Chinese government again accuses the Tibetans of terrorism, and imposes new regulations for obtaining visas.

Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The Olympic torch journeying toward Beijing "is the symbol of a sporting event, and as such we are honoured to receive it.  Those who wish to protest may do so, but this must remain peaceful: otherwise, we are ready to intervene".  This is the official stance of the Thai government, expressed by prime minister Samak Sundaravej, toward the torch of the Olympic Games, which arrived yesterday in Bangkok amid tight security measures.  The torch began its journey through Thailand today, departing from the Chinatown district of Bangkok in the presence of about 2,000 local policemen.

For the occasion, various groups decided to demonstrate against Chinese repression in Tibet.  The protests, says Olympic committee president Yuthasak Sasiprapa, "must remain legal. The torch and runners will be tightly escorted by police patrols and motorcycles all along the route, but we have no intention of cracking down on peaceful demonstrators".

In the meantime, there is no halt to the communist propaganda against the Tibetan demonstrators.  In an editorial in the government newspaper The People's Daily, the Tibetan Youth Congress (an organisation headquartered in India) is described as "a terrorist group that does not care about or respect human life".  The Congress, which the Chinese ministry for public safety has placed on the list of those who "seek the independence of the region", is not responding to the accusations.

Nonetheless, international protests and the support expressed by millions of people for the Tibetan cause are worrying to China, which is afraid of new protests during the Olympic Games in Beijing.  In order to try to stabilise the situation, the government has issued very restrictive new regulations for obtaining visas to visit China.

The United States and British trade commissions have reacted by sending to the government two formal protests: the decision, made without warning, has seriously affected all of the companies that trade with China, which suddenly find themselves without visa permission.

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