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Thai authorities arrest mother of student activist over Facebook messages

Thailand has defended its arrest of Patnaree Chankij, the mother of a controversial student activist. Her arrest is the latest in a string of crackdowns on government dissenters.

The 40-year-old woman was arrested on Saturday after writing a positive response to a Facebook message deemed offensive to the government.

Chankij, the mother of noted student activist Sirawith Seritiwat (pictured above), reportedly responded with a simple "yes" to a comment sent to her by another activist that purportedly insulted the country's royal family.

The woman's lawyer, a member of the group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, said there was no evidence that she shared opinions about the royal family.

However, a police spokesman told AFP news agency that "liking" or expressing agreement with an offensive Facebook post is grounds for legal action. He also added that Chankij had breached the law through other actions as well, but didn't go into any further detail.

Government crackdown

The activist, who reportedly sent the insulting messages, was also arrested.

Authorities have been cracking down heavily on the opposition ahead of an August 7 referendum that will vote on a new draft constitution the government wants to see passed.

Seritiwat has been increasingly vocal about the lengths to which the government is going to silence dissent. Earlier in 2016, he was arrested briefly along with several other activists.

blc/rc (AFP, AP)