Thai junta detains anti-coup leader

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BANGKOK: Thailand’s junta said on Friday that it had captured a fugitive anti-coup leader facing possible imprisonment, as the ruling generals seek to stamp out any criticism of their seizure of power.

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Sombat Boonngamanong, who spearheaded an online campaign to stage illegal flashmob rallies against the military takeover, was arrested late on Thursday in eastern Chonburi province, army spokeswoman Sirichan Ngathong said.

“We have a team who tracked him through the Internet,” she told Agence France-Presse.

“He faces initial charges of violating an order to report to the junta,” she said, a charge that carries a possible punishment of two years in prison.

Sombat was one of several hundred people—including poli–ticians, activists, academics and journalists—summoned by the military following its May 22 coup.

Those who attended were detained in secret locations for up to a week and ordered to cease political activities.

Sombat, a prominent pro-democracy activist, refused to turn himself in, instead posting a message on Facebook saying: “Catch me if you can.”

Since then he has urged followers to stage peaceful public demonstrations, flashing the three-finger salute from the “Hunger Games” films that has become a symbol of defiance against the junta.

Sombat is the leader of a faction of the “Red Shirts” movement, which broadly supports fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister Yingluck, who was deposed as prime minister last month.

A former minister in Yingluck’s ousted cabinet who also refused to answer the summons was detained by soldiers in a dramatic swoop on a press conference late last month, and faces trial in a military court.

AFP

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