Thai authorities seek political foes taking refuge in Laos

AP News
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Posted: Jan 31, 2017 7:17 AM

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand's military government wants neighboring Laos to send back about half a dozen Thai citizens who have reportedly taken refuge there to escape being arrested for insulting the Thai monarchy, a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Gen. Thawip Netniyom, head of Thailand's National Security Council, said Tuesday that the people being sought used social media to attack the monarchy.

He said the Defense Ministry has assigned him to seek a meeting with Laotian officials and work out a deal, which could include the exchange of people sought by each country.

The wanted persons are associated with the Red Shirt movement, which opposes the military government that seized power in 2014 and generally supports former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed by a 2006 military coup.

The military said after seizing power in 2014 that protecting the monarch would be a top priority, and has scoured the internet for such cases, pursuing many in military court. Critics charge the law is being used to harass and punish the government's political opponents.

"Although Thailand and Laos do not have an official agreement to extradite suspects, we can proceed in terms of mutually beneficial cooperation. If Laos wants a criminal who violated the law in Laos and is hiding in Thailand, they may ask Thai officials to make an arrest and send that person back," Thawip said.