Anti-coup protest organiser Sombat tracked via web and arrested in Thailand

Security forces swoop to detain Sombat after tracing him via computer network he was using

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 June, 2014, 10:20pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 June, 2014, 1:19am

Thailand's security forces have tracked down and detained a prominent activist who helped organise protests against last month's military coup via comments he posted on the internet, officials said yesterday.

Sombat Boonngamanong was caught in Chonburi province east of Bangkok late on Thursday, traced via the internet network he was using, said Major General Pisit Pao-in, head of a technology crime division at the Information and Communication Technology Ministry.

Pisit said Sombat was held after police searched a house in Chonburi after pinpointing his network's IP address. "The case is now with the army and it will investigate and decide how to proceed next," he added.

The detention was the latest in the military crackdown on pro-democracy dissidents and supporters of ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Yingluck, her ministers and prominent supporters of the Shinawatras have been detained, most for brief periods, and warned against anti-military activity. The military has not said how many people are being kept in custody.

The coup was the latest chapter in a decade-long conflict between the Bangkok-based royalist establishment, dominated by the military and old-money families, and supporters of Yingluck and her brother, ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who are adored by the poor in the north and northeast.

Yingluck was prime minister until May 7, when a court found her guilty of abuse of power and she stepped down. The army toppled the remnants of her government on May 22, saying it needed to restore order after sometimes deadly protests since November that had brought the economy close to recession.

Since then the junta has moved to suppress criticism and nip protests in the bud.

Sombat had refused to turn himself in to the military authorities after being summoned following the coup. He managed to post a final status update on Facebook saying: "I have been arrested." He had helped organise protests via social media in contravention of the junta's ban on political gatherings of more than five people.

Junta leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha has moved to reassure investors that the military council aims to fix the economy.

He met Chinese businessmen in Bangkok yesterday and told them that an interim government would be set up in three months and asked that they continue investing in the country.

Thailand's Commerce Ministry said yesterday that the prices of many consumer goods would be frozen for six months to November to hold down living costs and boost the economy and confidence.

The goods affected include beverages, rice, palm oil, instant foods, dairy products, household products, animal feed and fertiliser.

Former education minister Chaturon Chaisang was brought to a military court in prison garb and handcuffs yesterday so the authorities could extend his detention after he failed to turn himself in when summoned. He was remanded until June 20. He was arrested in Bangkok on May 27 at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand, bundled away by soldiers after addressing journalists.

The army has detained politicians and academics on both sides of the political divide, but a disproportionate number are Thaksin's supporters.