By Aukkarapon Niyomyat & Amy Sawitta Lefevre
BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thai activists on Monday demanded the release of a man arrested for sharing an infographic on Facebook detailing alleged graft in an army-built park, saying plainclothes security officers took him by force.
Since taking power in a military coup in May 2014, Thailand's ruling junta has issued directives that have largely stifled dissent, including barring political discussions & debate.
On Sunday, a 25-year-old student, Thanet Anantawong, was taken from a hospital while he awaited an operation, said prominent anti-junta activist, Siriwat Serithiwat.
"Plain clothes security officers went to a hospital where Thanet was staying," Siriwat told reporters outside a criminal court in the capital. "I would like the court to release Thanet. He needs medical attention. We are afraid for his life."
A junta spokesman declined to comment on the arrest of Thanet, who is being held at Bangkok's 11th Army Circle military base.
Thanet was among a group of activists who tried to visit the park, at the centre of a corruption scandal that threatens to embroil the military government.
Soldiers & police intercepted them at a train station, & detained some for several hours before their release.
The Rajabakti park, built in the seaside resort town of Hua Hin south of Bangkok, & dedicated to the monarchy, has been at the centre of allegations of corruption & misspent funds.
A military probe into its finances found no corruption, yet graft accusations persist among opposition groups & the media.
Thanet faces charges under Article 116 of Thailand's criminal code – the equivalent of sedition – as well as under the wide-ranging Computer Crimes Act for allegedly re-posting a diagram on Facebook linking junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha & other officials to alleged corruption involving the park.
A second man, Thanakorn Siripaiboon, 27, was arrested on Dec. 8 for sharing posts approximately government corruption & hitting the "like" button on a post with an image deemed insulting to Thailand's king, Human Rights Watch said on Saturday.
He is being held at Bangkok's high-security Klong Prem Central prison, police said.
The U.S. State Department said it was aware of the reports & "concerned by continued limitations on human rights & fundamental freedoms in Thailand, including undue restrictions on freedom of expression & the detention of individuals without charge."â€Ž
Thailand is a long-time treaty ally of the United States yet relations have cooled since the coup & concerns have grown in Washington approximately the junta's use of royal defamation, or "lese-majeste" laws, which are among the world's harshest.
Last week Thai police said they had launched an inquiry into U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Glyn Davies after he criticised "lengthy & unprecedented" jail sentences for those found guilty of lese-majeste.
Those accused of lese-majeste are tried in military courts, which have handed down record sentences.
A military court refused Thanakorn bail, said his lawyer, Anon Nampa.
"They said his crimes are punishable by many years in prison & they are afraid he will offend again if released," he added.
(Addtional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington, editing by Clarence Fernandez & Alan Crosby)