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Thailand soldiers arrest rights defender, son

[JURIST] Armed Thai soldiers on Sunday arrested human rights defender Sukanya Prueksakasemsuk and her son Panitan Prueksakasemsuk following a raid of their house in Bangkok. They were released on Monday from military custody [HRW report] on the condition that they give no interviews and take part in no political activities. Following their arrest the Thai military junta, the National Peace and Order Maintaining Council (NPOMC) provided, no information regarding their whereabouts, prompting calls from Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] for the NPOMC to allow Sukanya and her son access to a lawyer and family members. HRW Asia Director, Brad Adams [official profile], stated that the arrests raised post-military coup abuses to "a new and disturbing level," adding that concerned governments should be weighing in on the wrongful arrests taking place in Thailand [HRW backgrounder] since the coup. Sukanya Prueksakasemsuk's husband, magazine editor Somyat Prueksakasemsuk [HRW report], is currently serving a 13-year sentence under Thailand's laws forbidding insulting the monarchy. She has campaigned for his release as well as the release of others imprisoned under the same laws for the last three years, and organized a peaceful rally on May 23 opposing the military's imposition of martial law under the Martial Law Act of 1914 [B.E. 2457, PDF, in English]. HRW released a report in March 2007 discussing the issue of enforced disappearances in Thailand titled, "It Was Like Suddenly My Son No Longer Existed" [report, PDF]. Although HRW findings strongly implicated the involvement of the Thai police and military in 22 separate cases of enforced disappearance, there has not been a single successful criminal prosecution for any of them.

These arrests follow the release of several statements [JURIST report] on Sunday by Thailand's military in an effort to smother dissent related to the military overthrow of the government. Political instability in Thailand has increased over the past month after a number of key political officials were removed. Thailand's new military junta leader, General Prayuth Chan-ocha [BBC profile], announced on Thursday the military has seized control of the country and suspended its constitution, after having declared martial law [JURIST reports] on Tuesday. Chan-ocha stated [BBC report] that the army's declaration of martial law was not a coup but will remain in place until "peace and order" has been restored. The declaration of martial law was announced on a military run television station, citing Thailand's Martial Law Act of 1914 as the basis for the military's action. On May 7 the Thai Constitutional Court [official website] ordered [JURIST report] caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra [BBC profile] to step down for an alleged abuse of power relating to the transfer of a senior civil servant to another position in the government that occurred shortly after she took office in 2011. The decision also removed [WSJ report] several other cabinet members from their positions.

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