Pornchai Kittiwongsakul / AFP / Getty Images

Thailand anti-coup activist detained by police

Authorities track down Sombat Boonngamanong after tracing IP address he was using to post comments critical of military

Thai security forces have tracked down and detained a prominent activist who helped organize protests against last month's military coup from comments he posted on the Internet, officials said on Friday. 

Sombat Boonngamanong was caught in Chonburi province east of Bangkok late on Thursday, after being traced via the Internet network he was using, said Major General Pisit Pao-in, of the Information and Communication Technology Ministry. 

"Soldiers and police were informed of the IP address used by Sombat to post comments so we searched a house in Chonburi and found Sombat there. We detained him," Pisit told Reuters. "The case is now with the army and it will investigate and decide how to proceed next."

The detention was the latest in a 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.

Sombat, a prominent social activist, had spearheaded an online campaign calling for people to silently show opposition to the coup by raising a three-finger salute in public places – borrowing a symbol of resistance to oppression from Hollywood's "The Hunger Games."

He was one of several hundred people – including politicians, academics, activists and journalists –summoned by the military following the coup. Sombat defied the order to turn himself in and taunted authorities with postings such as "Catch me if you can." He managed to post a final status update on Facebook saying: "I have been arrested." 

"He's a smart guy and also clever," Pisit said. "But he said 'Catch me if you can.' Now we are showing him: 'We can catch you.'"

Sombat had previously organized regular demonstrations to mark a crackdown by the army on pro-Thaksin "red shirts" in May 2010 that ended a protest during which more than 90 people died. Last Sunday, the ruling military council sent 5,700 troops and police into central Bangkok to stop anti-coup protests as soon as they sprang up. Most were small events held around shopping malls. Very few protests have been seen this week. 

The National Anti-Corruption Commission said on Thursday it had launched a probe into the assets of Yingluck and four other ex-ministers related to a rice-buying scheme that helped undermine her government as farmers went unpaid for months. If found to have profited from the scheme, all five could have their assets seized. 

Wire services 

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