Thai police say protest leader arrested

The leader of an anti-government protest that forced cancellation of a summit in Thailand was arrested Sunday and charged with instigating people to break the law, police said.

Arismun Pongruengrong was being interrogated after his arrest at his residence, a police spokesman said. Police can detain Arismun without charge for 24 hours, but are considering asking the court to extend the detention period, said the police spokesman, Maj. Gen. Suporn Pansuea. Arismun led demonstrators to storm a hotel Saturday where Asian leaders were to meet, forcing the indefinite postponement of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, authorities said. The incident forced Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to declare a state of emergency in Chonburi province and the southern coastal city of Pattaya, where the summit was to be held. He rescinded the order hours afterward.

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Thousands of “red shirt” protesters, named for the color of their attire, have rallied for days to demand Abhisit’s resignation. The demonstrators flooded into the summit site after smashing through the hotel’s glass doors, but were otherwise nonviolent. Hundreds of them streamed in, without police interference. Protesters hugged the officers and shook their hands. The red shirts have given the prime minister repeated deadlines to resign, but those have come and gone. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was disappointed by the summit’s delay. “I understand the circumstances that led the Thai government to take this difficult decision. While I had hoped to have exchanges with the leaders of ASEAN and its dialogue partners, I continue to look forward to engaging again with them in the near future,” Ban said. The protesters are loyal to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup.

Thaksin lives outside of Thailand. The protesters have said Abhisit’s government was not democratically elected and want him to resign and schedule elections. Abhisit, who has held the position for four months, has rejected calls to step down.