Thai Authorities Detain Social-Media Activist

By Dow Jones Business News, 
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By Newley Purnell and Nopparat Chaichalearmmongkol

BANGKOK--Thai authorities arrested a veteran activist who had organized anti-junta flash mob-style demonstrations via social media following the military's May 22 coup, officials said.

Sombat Boonngamanong was detained Thursday night in a joint police and military operation in Thailand's Chonburi province, southeast of Bangkok, said Maj. Gen. Pisit Paoin, adviser to the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology's permanent secretary.

Mr. Sombat is being held at a military facility and will soon be brought before a military court. He is expected to be detained for seven days before his case is handed over to police, Maj. Gen. Pisit said.

A message on Mr. Sombat's Facebook page posted at approximately 9 p.m. Thursday said simply, "I've been arrested."

Mr. Sombat in recent weeks has defied orders to present himself to Thailand's armed forces, challenging them via his widely read Facebook page to "Catch Me If You Can!"

His detention could prove important in the military's attempts to tamp down dissent against the armed forces' first coup of the social media age. The army seized power from the nation's elected government two weeks ago following monthslong and sometimes violent political turmoil.

Since then, Mr. Sombat has taken to Facebook and Twitter to announce surprise, pop-up rallies at various locations in Bangkok, where dozens of demonstrators have gathered to protest against the military. Thailand remains under martial law, with the army forbidding physical gatherings of more than five people. The junta has said it won't tolerate criticism of the armed forces on social media or elsewhere.

Separately, Chaturon Chaiseng, education minister under the government overthrown by the army, appeared in a military court Friday morning, where authorities sought to extend his detention, according to local media.

Mr. Chaturon was hustled out of the country's foreign press club in Bangkok by camouflage-clad troops on May 27 after denouncing the coup and vowing not to report to the army after being summoned.

Write to Newley Purnell at newley.purnell @wsj.com and Nopparat Chaichalearmmongkol at nopparat.chaichalearmmongkol@wsj.com

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  (END) Dow Jones Newswires
  06-06-140115ET
  Copyright (c) 2014 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


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