Thai activist withdraws as Olympic torchbearer over Tibet

March 24th, 2008 - 6:45 pm ICT by admin  

London, March 24 (IANS) A Thai environmentalist has withdrawn from carrying the Olympic torch in protest against Chinese policies on Tibet, saying in a letter published here Monday that the flame should be “a symbol of peace, not oppression”. Narisa Chakrabongse, chairperson of the non-government Green World Foundation and one of only six Thais chosen to bear the Olympic flame on its run from Athens to Beijing, said she has withdrawn as a Buddhist.

She said although she had reservations about China being the second largest carbon emitter, she had agreed to be a torchbearer in favour of “positive engagement”.

But, in her letter published in The Guardian newspaper she said, “in view of recent events in Tibet, I have now withdrawn”.

“As a Buddhist, I cannot participate when China has shown a disregard for human rights, refuses to enter into a dialogue with the [Tibetan spiritual leader] Dalai Lama and has no regard for world opinion.”

The torch ceremony was kicked off in Athens Monday amid protests. The flame is due to reach Bangkok April 19.

According to reports here, British authorities are planning an unprecedented ground, sea and air security cover to protect the flame from Tibetan and human rights protesters when it arrives in London April 6.

“China is using the Olympics as an attempt to encourage the world community to endorse its regime,” Narisa Chakrabongse said.

“I understand that I am the first torchbearer to withdraw from carrying the flame, which should be a symbol of peace not oppression,” she added.

The torch, to be carried by 21,880 bearers, will pass through 135 cities and traverse 85,000 miles before finishing up in Beijing for the August Olympics.

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