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April 20, 2008

Olympic flame in KL, Malaysia on 2nd leg of Asean tour


The 2008 Beijing Olympic torch arrived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia early Sunday, marking the second leg of its tour of Asean or the 13th leg of its global torch

A chartered plane carrying the flame landed at the Kuala Lumpur international airport at 02:30 a.m. local time from Bangkok, capital of Thailand.

The Kuala Lumpur leg of the torch relay, to start from Dataran Merdeka and conclude at the famous "Twin Tower" KLCC, will commence Monday afternoon.

On Saturday, thousands of people followed the Olympic torch through the sweltering streets of Thailand's capital with little of the dissent that has accompanied some of the relay's earlier stops, AFP reported.

Protests over China's crackdown on anti-government riots in Tibet have dogged the torch on its way to the Olympics' opening ceremony in August in Beijing. The growing criticism of China's human rights record has turned the coming summer Games into one of the most contentious in recent history.

The nearly three-hour run in Bangkok, with no disruptions by demonstrators protesting China's recent crackdown in Tibet, contrasted with the chaos that accompanied the torch's visits to London, Paris and San Francisco.

A coalition of human rights and other activist groups staged a loud but peaceful protest in front of the UN’s Asian headquarters, along the relay's route.

The hundred or so protesters waived placards and chanted "Free Tibet" and "Shame, shame, Hu Jintao," referring to China's president.

That group was countered by a mostly Chinese-speaking group of the same size across the street yelling pro-China slogans. Some in the crowd following the torchbearers also jeered the pro-Tibet group.

The torch left Thailand Saturday night for Malaysia, where officials say they are not expecting any trouble for a Monday run. However, there are security concerns for the relay in Jakarta, Indonesia, the next stop after Kuala Lumpur.

After Jakarta, the torch will reach Canberra, Australia, where it may encounter pro-Tibet demonstrations. After that, the torch will be taken to Japan, South and North Korea, and Vietnam, before making its China entrance when Hong Kong hosts the relay on May 2.

The Olympic global torch relay will cover 137,000 kilometers before the flame returns to Beijing.

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