Briton, Australian arrested over Thai unrest

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Two foreigners, a Briton and an Australian, have been arrested in Thailand for joining violent street protests by the anti-government "Red Shirt" movement, officials said Tuesday.

The Australian, Conor David Purcell, 30, and the Briton, Jeff Savage, 49, were arrested and charged for breaching emergency law, an offence which carries up to two years imprisonment, police said.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said the pair were arrested for violating the state of emergency "and for their roles on stage during the rally."

"For the Australian man it's not yet clear, but in the case of the Briton he's involved with the (Red Shirt) movement in Pattaya," a Thai coastal city, Abhisit told reporters.

He said officials would also probe other allegations against the men.

"In-depth investigations will be carried out to find out whether they had any other role," Abhisit said.

Abhisit said he was confident that Savage was systematically involved with the Red Shirts, based on his comments to the British media.

Savage has been accused by the Thai government of inciting protesters to set fire to a major shopping mall, Central World, after Red Shirt leaders called off their rally and surrendered followed a military crackdown last Wednesday.

According to British media, he has denied being involved in arson.

The street rallies, which were broken up last week by the army, paralysed central Bangkok and descended into several outbreaks of violence that left 88 people dead since mid-March, mostly civilians, and nearly 1,900 injured.

Enraged militants within the movement set dozens of buildings ablaze including the stock exchange and Central World, which now stands in ruins.

© 2010 AFP

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