Thai government shows protesters' arsenal

Thai officials today revealed a large cache of weapons confiscated from the stronghold of protesters cleared from the heart of Bangkok in a military operation that ended a two-month standoff that left at least 85 dead.

Police also responded to criticism they were too lenient with detained leaders of the anti-government protests by saying they had now been separated, had their phones confiscated, and were placed under armed guard.



The weapons — including rifles, bullets, grenades and the components of bombs — were put on display to defend the government's claim that the troops faced a serious threat and exercised appropriate levels of force when they moved in to clear the main protest area.



At least 15 people died in the final offensive Wednesday and more than 100 were wounded.



The Thai capital was gripped with its worst political violence in decades during the so-called Red Shirt occupation of downtown Bangkok, culminating in the military crackdown that sparked a rampage by supporters who launched grenade attacks and set fire to landmark buildings, including the country's stock exchange and biggest shopping mall.



"The fires in many areas in Bangkok were well prepared — step by step," army spokesman Col. Sansern Kaewkamnerd said at a news conference where he was flanked by tables covered with the recovered weapons. Officials said 11 soldiers and police officers were among the 85 people killed in the political violence of the past two months.



Most of the Red Shirts' leadership involved in the protests has either been arrested or surrendered, and many were being held at a seaside police camp south of Bangkok.



The police were slammed after photos circulated on the Internet of the leaders looking relaxed and smiling for group shots soon after in a spacious, well-furnished house on the base that was being used as their holding area.



Police spokesman Prawut Thavornsiri told a news conference police decided to put the leaders in that house because there were not enough rooms elsewhere and the house was more secure.



But following the criticism, Kobsak Sabhavasu, secretary-general to the prime minister, said police officers have now been told to detain the leaders separately and to prohibit them from using communication devices such as cell phones.



Some of the leaders continued to send text messages to supporters and the media for days after they were detained.



The deputy commander of the Metropolitan Police, Umnuay Nimmano, said police cannot imprison the detainees because they have not been convicted of any crimes. But he said the photos were regrettable, and made the detainment look "like a picnic."



Many analysts believe the Red Shirt movement, which supports ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, could foment unrest throughout the country for months or even years to come. Thaksin, who lives in exile after his 2006 ouster in a military coup and subsequent conviction for corruption, has said he supports the Red Shirts' cause.



Bangkok remains in a state of emergency and under a nighttime curfew through the weekend, its first since a pro-democracy uprising against a military government in 1992. But many shops were open Saturday, traffic was returning to the city and the curfew in Pattaya, a popular beach resort, was lifted.



The government said it would allow Red Shirt gatherings, as long as they were peaceful. Thai media have reported the Red Shirts plan to stage more protests Monday.



"They can gather together as long as they don't break the law," said government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn.



Still, police in provincial Thailand are so on edge about the violence that rocked Bangkok that they arrested teenagers accused of playing with fireworks after dark.



The teenagers were arrested for breaking the curfew that had been set in 24 provinces including Bangkok. Police later found that they had fireworks, according to the ASTV satellite television network.



Police in Chonburi province, where the youths were reportedly arrested, could not be reached for comment.



There is strong anti-government sentiment in the poor, rural north and northeast, home to many of the Red Shirt protesters who feel Oxford-educated Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his government is elitist and came to power illegitimately.



Along with Bangkok, violence had broken out in some of the Red Shirt strongholds in the provinces earlier this week. Police reported no significant incidents Saturday, but concerns remain that the movement may regroup and shift its focus to the more rural areas.



Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
people
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
Sport
football
News
i100
News
Perry says: 'Psychiatrists give help because they need help. You would not be working in mental health if you didn't have a curiosity about how the mind works.'
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?