Tens of thousands turned out in blazing heat yesterday to catch a glimpse of the controversial Olympic torch, in what was a relatively smooth running.
There were heated shouting matches between about 200 Chinese students and 100 pro-Tibet demonstrators outside the UN headquarters.
Police had to restrain demonstrators and supporters who tried to break through barriers.
The run was shrouded in heavy security, with thousands of foot-patrol officers on hand and a police helicopter overhead.
The pro-Tibet protest was generally peaceful but noisy. The opposition Chinese demonstration was mainly students at university here. The two groups exchanged heated chants. Police kept the opposing camps apart.
NGO activist Jon Ungphakorn was among the pro-Tibet crowd. He slammed the government for being "solidly behind" China on the controversial issue.
A student of the Dalai Lama, Kati Muntrabhorn, says the government should do its homework before backing Beijing. "Monks are being killed. If they can kill monks, what next?"
The China side was angered by the pro-Tibet demonstration. "We're so proud our country is holding the Olympics. China is the best. They have no right to protest," says Gao Ximo, a native of Yunnan studying in Bangkok.
The flame started its journey at the Sixth Cycle Commemorative Gateway, or Chinese Gate, in the heart of Chinatown.
Bangkok Governor Apirak Kosayodhin handed it to lead runner Bangkok Metropolitan Administration permanent secretary Anant Siripassara-porn.
Another 79 athletes, including the country's five Olympic gold-medal winners, environmentalists and personalities took their turns over the 10.5-kilometre course.
"It's a great honour to carry the Olympic torch. This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing," gushed champion of underprivileged orphans Nuannoi Timkul. "I'm a nobody, but they gave me the chance to do a great thing."
Despite the temperatures, residents and Chinese expatriates lined streets, as did schoolchildren. All waved national flags, and many Chinese standards were in evidence.
The flame departed for Malaysia late last night.
Meanwhile, relay runner and former television star Christopher Benjakul had his replica torch snatched away after passing on the flame. He wants it back. "Please, please return it to me. I've been waiting for this a long time and wanted the souvenir of this moment."
By Preechachan Wiriyanupappong,