By Tim Johnson, McClatchy Newspapers
— The was meant to kick off ‘s moment in the sun, but it’s turned into a public relations fiasco with ever-larger squads of police in foreign capitals shielding the torch from protesters.
China has given no sign that it will cut short the relay, which continues its 21-city global odyssey Saturday in , and Monday in .
Yet frustration has set in that the troubled torch relay may signal further minefields ahead for the Summer Games on Aug. 8-24 , and a loss of face for China rather than a boost for the world’s most populous nation.
“All that has happened is a kind of humiliation,” said Hu Xingdou, a political analyst at the. “The government never expected this.”
Thailand Braces for Unrest As Olympic Torch Approaches
BANGKOK (Reuters) – Hundreds of Thai police braced for another round of anti-China protests on Saturday as the Olympic torch was readied for its parade through, the latest leg of its troubled tour from to .
Several groups angry at Beijing’s human rights record and its rule in Tibet are planning demonstrations but will meet no opposition from police as long as they remain orderly, Thai Olympic chief General Yuthasak Sasiprapa said.
“If they are peaceful, it’s OK,” he told Reuters. “But we will not tolerate any violent or illegal protests. The torch and runners will be tightly escorted by police patrols and motorcycles all along the route.”
The 10.5-km (6.5-mile) relay is due to start at 0800 GMT in the capital’s— a reflection of ‘s close social ties to its giant regional neighbor — before proceeding past the golden-spired Grand Palace.
The main protest during the procession will be outside the regional headquarters of the, where a dozen pro-democracy groups say they will demonstrate against ‘s crackdown on unrest in Tibet in March.
Police Special Branch officers say they are also aware of a move by local supporters of, the religious group outlawed by Beijing, to voice their opposition to the Games, which open in Beijing on August 8.