BANGKOK - A fugitive government minister ousted in last week’s coup was arrested by soldiers Tuesday, moments after publicly criticizing the country’s military junta.
Former education minister Chaturon Chaisaeng was escorted out of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, in Bangkok, in front of reporters and television cameras.
Before his arrest, Chaturon urged the junta to restore Thailand’s civilian government but said he fears coup leader General Prayuth Chan-Ocha wants to hold onto power as long as possible.
He also lambasted the country’s political leaders, saying they “do not believe in democracy.”
“From now on, there will be more and more resistance,” he predicted before soldiers came to take him away.
Chaturon was Thailand’s most high-profile fugitive, having ignored Friday’s demand by the army to attend a meeting or face arrest. In total, 155 politicians and public figures were ordered to report to the military junta.
Chaturon said those who met the army were only released after promising not to criticize the new regime, and that he would refuse to do so.
Prayuth seized power on Thursday, saying the move was necessary to restore order after nearly seven months of sometimes deadly demonstrations over political deadlock.
Chaturon is a veteran of Thailand's long and frequently thwarted fight for democracy. He has lived through six coups.
As a student he was involved in the movement that initiated the October 1973 uprising against the military dictatorship of Thanom Kittikachorn. After another coup attempt in 1976, and the massacre of students at Thammasat University he became part of the illegal Communist Party of Thailand and took to the jungle.
More recently he has been one of Thailand's highest profile politicians, serving in several governments associated with exiled former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.
Thaksin was deposed by the military in 2006 and has lived abroad since 2008 to avoid a graft conviction but remains Thailand's most influential politician, hugely popular among the poor, particularly in the rural, populous north and northeast.