Thai junta arrests anti-coup activist Sombat
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Thai junta arrests anti-coup activist Sombat

By Lisa Gardner

“Catch me if you can,” he said. And catch him they did.

Thai activist Sombat Boonngamanong (@nuling) was arrested yesterday after posting news of anti-coup protests and ridiculing the junta online, flouting orders that forbid criticism and gatherings of more than five people.

The popular activist – with over 67,000 Twitter followers – posted late yesterday, simply: “I’ve been arrested.”

The arrest comes as hundreds of activists have been summoned to appear before the junta for “talks”, before being arrested and detained for a period of up to seven days. Others have retreated into exile, ignoring the junta’s orders – which enjoy the full force of parliamentary acts – instead risking imprisonment, and the freezing of assets.

Sombat, ignoring orders issued that he too report, had gone into hiding. Early reports suggest that he was tracked down via IP address.

Journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk, tentatively posting online since being released from detention, tweeted “with @Nuling arrested, the on and off line anti-coup movement is likely to become leaderless, organic & more unpredictable.”

The arrest comes as orders are issued for activists – many of whom have long since remained in exile – to return to Thailand for similarly-styled “discussions” with the junta. Among them are academic Giles Ungpakorn, former Thai-American political prisoner Joe Gordon, and red shirt leader Jakrapob Penkair.

More than 350 people have already been summoned, with summons issued on an almost daily basis. Local rights groups report estimates that some 200 people are being held in detention. Some, in Bangkok – others in central and northeastern parts of the country. It is unclear in what conditions many are being held.

Separately, Chaturon Chaiseng received bail earlier today after being expected to remain in detention until June 20. The former education minister arrived at the court in handcuffs this morning after being arrested on May 27 at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club.