Protesting Thai reader of Orwell's 1984 dragged off by police in Bangkok
Associated Press in Bangkok
Police in Thailand yesterday arrested eight people for demonstrating against the nation's increasingly repressive military junta, including a man dragged away by undercover officers for reading a copy of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. The arrest was the first known case of anyone being detained for reading as a form of protest since the military seized power last month.
Handfuls of anti-coup protesters have staged several silent readings of the book in recent weeks, saying its indictment of totalitarianism has become relevant after the army deposed the nation's elected government in a May 22 coup.
A police officer said all the arrests took place in and around the upmarket Siam Paragon mall in central Bangkok.
A Thai reporter who witnessed the lone man reading Orwell's classic said he was taken away by half a dozen plainclothes police. The reporter said the man held the book up as officers approached.
When questioned, the man said he was reading the book for "liberty, equality and fraternity" - the slogan of the French Revolution. The man was also playing the French national anthem on his smartphone.
Another of the arrests was of a woman wearing a T-shirt with the words "Respect My Vote" on it. The phrase became popular among pro-democracy groups trying to counter anti-government protesters who obstructed February elections that were later annulled in a controversial court ruling.