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.