Thai police arrest anti-coup activist after Facebook taunts

Junta setting about dismantling Shinawatra family power base

Thai demonstrators wear masks of Sombat Boonngamanong during a demonstration  in Bangkok in May. The activist yesterday change his Facebook status to state: “I have been arrested.” Photograph: EPA/Rungroj Yongrit

Thai demonstrators wear masks of Sombat Boonngamanong during a demonstration in Bangkok in May. The activist yesterday change his Facebook status to state: “I have been arrested.” Photograph: EPA/Rungroj Yongrit

Sat, Jun 7, 2014, 01:00

Thailand’s military junta has tightened its control of

the country by sidelining officials loyal to the ousted Shinawatra family, and yesterday caught a top anti-coup activist who had taunted authorities with a Facebook posting saying, “Catch me if you can”.

Sombat Boonngamanong, who had organised rallies to protest the military coup, was forced to change his Facebook status to: “I have been arrested.”

Major General Pisit Pao-in, who leads a technology crime division at the Information and Communication Technology Ministry, said Mr Sombat had been caught in Chonburi province east of Bangkok late on Thursday, and they had tracked him down using the internet network he was using. He is wanted for violating an order to report to the ruling junta.

Crackdown

The detention was the latest in the military crackdown on pro-democracy dissidents and supporters of exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and sister Yingluck, who was ousted by a constitutional commission after months of anti-government protests.

The crackdown is looking more and more like a root-and-branch dismantling of the Shinawatra’s power base to try and ensure the hugely popular family – which has won every election this century, with increasing majorities – never gets elected again.

The royalist elite made up of the Bangkok middle class, senior generals and old business families want to effectively remove the Shinawatras from political life in Thailand. Mr Shinawatra was deposed by a military coup in 2006, and the constitution was re-written by the junta then to bring in the opposition Democrats.