Thai police threaten online critics of junta

Chaturon Chaisang, right, was released from prison Friday on bail after being arrested for defying the military.
Chaturon Chaisang, right, was released from prison Friday on bail after being arrested for defying the military.(EPA/NARONG SANGNAK)

BANGKOK — Thai police warned online critics of the military junta Friday that they will ‘‘come get you’’ for posting political views that could incite divisiveness, the latest reminder about surveillance of social media in post-coup Thailand.

The Technology Crime Suppression Division, a police unit working with the army, cited Thursday’s capture of a leading organizer of anti-coup protests as a lesson to everyone in the country using social media.

Police tracked Sombat Boonngam-anong’s IP address to learn where he was after he made Facebook postings calling for protests against the May 22 coup, said police Major General Pisit Paoin, who handled the arrest.


‘‘I want to tell any offenders on social media that police will come get you,’’ Pisit told The Associated Press. ‘‘Any expressions of political views online must be done in a way that will neither incite divisiveness or violence.’’

The military government, which has warned it is closely monitoring online activities, has blocked hundreds of websites and plans to expand its surveillance capabilities. But Sombat’s arrest was likely to spread new fear through Thailand’s active online community.

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 ‘‘The Hunger Games.’’

In a bow to the publicity generated by the gesture, coup leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha devoted a few words to it in his almost hour-long televised speech setting out his regime’s intentions.

‘‘There have been gestures of holding three fingers in protest — that is fine. I have no conflict with you,’’ he said. ‘‘But how about if we all raise five fingers instead — two for the country and the other three to signify religion, monarchy, and the people.’’


Meanwhile, a military court Friday freed on bail ousted Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang, another prominent figure who had defied the order. His lawyer said Chaturon posted $12,500 bail and was told not to ‘‘incite unrest’’ or leave the country.