Eight charged with sedition in Thailand over Facebook criticism of draft charter

Student activists are detained during a silent protest after Thailand's election commission filed charges against a group for posting "foul and strong" comments online criticising a military-backed draft constitution, in Bangkok, Thailand April 27, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai police charged eight people with sedition and computer crimes on Thursday, part of fresh wave of arrests as Thailand cracks down on online dissent before a referendum on a military-backed draft constitution. The eight were detained by troops on Wednesday over Facebook comments criticizing the draft, which has been denounced by groups on both sides of Thailand's political divide ahead of the Aug. 7 referendum. Police said the eight had been charged over comments critical of the junta and the constitution. The charges follow arrests over the past week of anti-junta activists who have held gatherings around the Thai capital amid growing criticism of the draft charter. Critics say the charter entrenches the military's political influence. Among other things, it proposes an unelected upper house Senate to include a handful of top military and police commanders. The military seized power in a May 2014 coup. Thailand has been torn apart by more than a decade of on-off protests and political instability since the army ousted billionaire former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006. (Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre, Panarat Thepgumpanat and Pracha Hariraksapitak; Editing by Nick Macfie)