PHITSANULOK — Plainclothes state officials over the weekend visited and detained six anti-government protest leaders in Phitsanulok province, the group said on Monday.
Brave Phitsanulok Will Not Bow to Dictators said five of its members were seized at a protest site close to a temple, and taken to a bizarre “attitude adjustment lecture” deep inside a jungle. Another member was reportedly questioned at her dorm by security officers.
“They talked about many Thai kings and how they were related to Phitsanulok, what good deeds they did for the country, as well as the sacredness of various supernatural spirits in the province,” the group wrote in an online post.
“They told many other illogical, unprovable myths about the place that we were going to hold the protest at as well.”
However, a local police chief dismissed the tale as fanciful.
“It’s all fabricated news. It’s all false news,” Col. Pakphum Prapsriphum of Phitsanulok City Police Station said in an interview. “The protest went on as usual, but only about 10 people came.”
The protest was scheduled for 4pm near Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat. The group said the five activists were picked up at about noon on Sunday by 10 plainclothes officials while they were preparing for the rally.
The officials reportedly drove them away in a van before searching them and confiscating their phones.
“We knew we were going to disappear, so we asked to contact our friends and family. We were not allowed, but they said that if we cooperated they would not use force. After all, we were fellow Phitsanolokians,” the group wrote.
They were later taken on separate trucks to a house inside a forest, where officials questioned them on who funded or supported the protests, the group said. The activists were then allegedly given a lecture on history and supernatural forces in the province.
Plainclothes security officers also visited a female member of the group at her dorm at about 12.30pm and tried to discourage her from further activities against the government, according to the online post.
All of the detained activists were reportedly released on the same day without any charges.
Yaowalak Anuphan, the chairwoman of civil rights group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, said she is in talks to aid the protesters with any legal action they may take against the security forces.
“It’s clear that what happened to them was illegal,” she said by phone Monday.
Since the military coup in 2014, security officials have often abducted pro-democracy campaigners and interrogated them in unspecified locations, a practice seen by activists as a scare tactic.