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Thai police investigate as users post 'chaotic' military coup rumours on Facebook

Police in Thailand have began investigating four people for posting rumours of a possible impending military coup on Facebook, something which the authorities say caused panic in the country.

If found guilty, the four individuals, including the political editor of a public television channel, Sermsuk Kasitipradit, could face up to five years in prison and a ฿100,000 (£2,074) fine.

"These four have posted false messages about the coup and other messages that could lead to chaos in the society," Police major general Pisit Paoin told a press conference on Monday.

"The postings' content does not hold any truth, and if the words kept spreading around, it could damage the country."

The posts contained advice to hoard supplies, including food and water, due to the coup threat.

Paoin has also threatened to prosecute anyone who liked or shared the post adding, "we would like to ask the public to contemplate very carefully about the way they use social media."

Army chief general Prayuth Chan-ocha moved to further quash the rumours, telling reporters, "Do not spread the rumors. Rumors are rumors. I want every group, every side, everyone, no matter which side you're on, to be sensible."

The country's 2007 Computer Crime Act prevents the spread of information considered harmful to national security or a source of mass panic. The act does, however, stipulate that authorities must obtain a court order to block content.

The news comes as Thailand braces for the possibility of unrest and protest over parliamentary moves that could result in the pardoning of former Prime Minister - and ex-Manchester City owner - Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup.

Abuse of social media has become a major issue since the rise of the major social networks, with police in the UK recently launching an investigation after bomb threats were sent to several female journalists over Twitter.

Image credit: Flickr (octal)