Thai police detain 3 demonstrators in Bangkok
BANGKOK, Thailand – Thai police detained 3 demonstrators on Sunday, February 22, after they called for a public forum to exchange ideas with the ruling military junta, in the latest move against freedom of expression.
At least one of the demonstrators held up a white T-shirt emblazoned with a bird that had its beak and feet bound during the small gathering near the capital's Victory Monument.
The generals have banned political gatherings of more than 5 people under martial law, imposed two days before they grabbed power from an elected government last May.
Police Colonel Vichai Dangprakob told Agence France-Presse the trio were detained for several hours after the gathering for "attitude adjustment." He later confirmed they had been released without a formal arrest or charge.
"Attitude adjustment" sessions are used by the junta to haul in those deemed to be uncooperative with the military.
The junta insists the summonses are simply invitations – though in reality any refusal to cooperate would likely lead to significant censure.
"The army only talked to them and adjusted their attitude," said Vichai, adding that police fined the three 100 baht ($3) each for "disturbing the public."
Sunday's rally was staged by members of a group called Serichon (Freeman) Thailand 58, which handed out a statement during the event claiming they were not gathered in protest.
It added that the group was calling for the junta-appointed government "to brainstorm ideas with people across the country."
The group did not detail what ideas it hoped to discuss but called for a broader forum than the reform council put in place by the military after the coup to work on initiatives such as combating corruption.
The junta says it will hold fresh elections in early 2016 once reforms including tackling corruption and curbing the power of political parties are codified in a new constitution.
The military has responded aggressively to any form of opposition to the coup.
Protesters have been arrested for handing out copies of George Orwell's anti-authoritarian novel "1984" or flashing the three-fingered salute from the Hollywood franchise "The Hunger Games" – both acts that have become unofficial forms of opposition to the regime.
Last month 3 former ministers, a prominent leader of the opposition Red Shirt movement and the lawyer of ousted premier Yingluck Shinawatra were among those forced to report to barracks for "attitude adjustment."
Junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha, appointed prime minister after the coup, has threatened punitive measures against those who criticize the regime including banning opponents from travelling abroad.
The coup was the latest chapter in Thailand's long-running political crisis that broadly pits Bangkok's middle class and royalist elites, backed by parts of the military, against rural and working-class voters loyal to Yingluck and her brother Thaksin, deposed in an earlier 2006 coup. – Rappler.com