BANGKOK — Four pro-democracy activists were arrested for discussing politics and giving away free T-shirts at Victory Monument in Bangkok today.
The activists, led by Akkrit Noonchan, said they represent a pro-democracy group called "Free People of Thailand 58," with the number 58 referring to the current year in Thai Buddhist calendar, 2558. The group distributed leaflets calling upon the Thai junta to increase public participation in the national reform process.
The activists also handed out T-shirts with the name of their group and an image of a bird whose beak and feet are tied with string.
Just as Akkrit was about to read a written statement to the crowd of reporters, plain-clothed security officers moved in to drag him away.
"You see? I haven't said anything and they shut my mouth already," Akkrit shouted as he was led away to a police box. "My beak is being tied," he said. In another show of defiance, Akkrit rolled down the window of the police vehicle and gave a "V" sign to reporters as he was driven away.
Police later arrested three other activists. The group was taken to Phayathai Police Station for "attitude adjustment" sessions, an officer told reporters.
Thailand's military junta banned all political activities shortly after seizing power from an elected government on 22 May 2014. Some violators have been detained at military barracks for "attitude adjustment" and prosecuted in military courts, where appeals are not possible. If found guilty, dissidents can face up to two years in prison.
The junta, known officially as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), has consistently relaxed its enforcement of the ban on groups widely perceived as sympathetic to the coup. Yesterday, Buddhist monk and pro-coup activist Buddha Issra was permitted to hold an hour-long protest in front of a temple of a rival Buddhist sect in Nakhon Pathom province.
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