November 4, 2009 / 7:11 AM / 10 years ago

Thai police make third arrest in stock rumour probe

BANGKOK, Nov 4 (Reuters) - Police in Thailand said on Wednesday they had arrested a third person on suspicion of spreading rumours about the health of the country’s 81-year-old king that triggered a slide in stock prices.

“We’ve arrested another man on this case,” Police Major General Panya Mamen, a deputy chief at the Central Investigation Bureau, told Reuters.

“We will seek more warrants to arrest people with connections to this person,” added Panya, who declined to give details about the suspect or progress in the case.

Local media reported that the suspect, Somjet Itthiworakul, was arrested late on Tuesday in Chon Buri province, about 100 km (62 miles) east of the capital, Bangkok.

One report said he was a tour guide, another said he organised trips to border casinos for Thai gamblers. None said he had any connection with the financial sector.

On Sunday, police arrested then freed on bail two people on suspicion of spreading rumours about the health of revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej [ID:nBKK461703].

They were charged under the 2007 Computer Offence Act covering the posting of false computerised information that causes harm to national security and the public. They face up to five years in jail and a 100,000 baht ($3,000) fine if convicted.

Thai stocks .SETI plunged 7.2 percent on Oct. 14-15 as rumours circulated over the health of the king, who has been in hospital since Sept. 19.

The king, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, is regarded as semi-divine by many of the country’s 67 million people. Strict lese-majeste and national security laws make comment on royal matters risky.

His health is a sensitive topic in financial markets because he is seen as the sole unifying figure in a politically polarised country with a long history of coups and upheaval.

The Department of Special Investigation (DSI), which comes under the Justice Ministry, is also conducting an inquiry into possible stock trading irregularities, which it expects to complete in late November. (Reporting by Ploy Ten Kate; Editing by Martin Petty and Bill Tarrant)

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