Thai anti-coup activist who led 'Hunger Games' inspired protests is freed on bail

The Associated Press
July 1, 2014 11:50 PM

FILE - In this Thursday, June 12, 2014 file photo, Sombat Boonngam-anong gestures a sign of freedom while arriving at the military court in Bangkok, Thailand. Sombat was released from police custody Tuesday, July 1, 2014, on conditions that he not incite unrest or travel overseas without permission from authorities after posting a 300,000 baht ($9,250) bail, said Police Col. Kittirat Noiponthong. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit, File)

BANGKOK - An activist who spearheaded silent protests against Thailand's military coup, including a campaign featuring a three-fingered salute inspired by "The Hunger Games," had been freed on bail after a month-long detention, police said on Wednesday.

Sombat Boonngam-anong was released from police custody Tuesday on conditions that he not incite unrest or travel overseas without permission from authorities after posting a 300,000 baht ($9,250) bail, said Police Col. Kittirat Noiponthong.

The 46-year-old was freed by the military court Monday after his arrest June 5 in eastern Thailand. After the release he was taken to Roi Et province, 510 kilometres (320 miles) northeast of Bangkok, for a police interrogation in a separate lawsuit involving anti-monarchy defamation accusations, which result in a prison term of to 15 years.

Police Col. Kittirat said Sombat will have to report himself to police officers in Roi Et every month.

Sombat faces a variety of charges, including inciting division in the country by organizing protests, defying the junta's summoning order, and violation of the country's Computer Crime Act. A long-time social activist, he used social media to organize groups of demonstrators to come together on Sundays for peaceful protests and to spearhead the "Hunger Games"-inspired three-finger salute campaign to protest the May 22 coup, even as he was in hiding.

The numbers of protesters have now dwindled due to a show of force and crackdown by police and soldiers.

Sombat was one of the first people to organize protests against a previous coup in 2006, and became known for his imaginative and non-violent tactics. He was associated with the so-called Red Shirt movement, which supported Thaksin Shinawatra, the prime minister who was ousted in 2006, and more recently his sister Yingluck Shinawatra, who was forced out of office by a court ruling slightly ahead of the coup.


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