PM: Thailand returning to normal

Abhisit hints night-time curfew likely to be extended but says "everything is calm".

    The government has put on display what it says is a red-shirt cache of weapons [Reuters]

    Squads of workers remain out on Bangkok's thoroughfares, continuing to clean up in the aftermath of Wednesday's crackdown and ensuing riots, which left at least 15 people dead, bringing to 85 the number of people who have died since the first violence flared on April 10.

    The violence also left nearly 100 people wounded, bringing to around 1,400 those who have been injured in the crisis.

    Crackdown defended

    Despite the high human cost, Abhisit defended the conduct of government forces.

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    "The losses were caused by clashes between groups of people attacking authorities' efforts to set up checkpoints to secure the area," he said.

    "All weapons use was based on international standards. Weapons were used for self defence and to establish peace and order."

    Seeking to blunt criticism from international rights groups as well as the red shirts, who said they were largely unarmed, the government displayed on Saturday a huge cache of weapons it said had been collected from the ruins of the protesters' encampment.

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

    However, Abhisit admitted there were serious concerns over fighting at a temple within the red shirts' camp. It had been designated a "safe zone" but six bodies were found there after the crackdown.

    "The most distressing were the deaths at the Pathum Vanaram temple," he said.

    He maintained there was no military action at the time of the temple shootings, but said the events would be investigated by an independent committee.

    Concern has been growing over rights abuses in Thailand, with the European Union the latest to call on the authorities to respect the rights of protesters and saying the violence had harmed the nation.

    Emergency decree

    New York-based Human Rights Watch said it was concerned that Thai authorities were using what it called a "draconian" emergency decree to hold red shirt prisoners in secret detention.

    Elaine Pearson, HRW's acting Asia director, said the crisis was "no excuse for mistreating detained protesters or holding them in secret detention.



    Red shirt protesters go underground

    But there has also been criticism that the government has been too lenient in its treatment of suspected red-shirt leaders after pictures of the men looking relaxed and smiling for group shots in a spacious, well-furnished house were circulated on the internet

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

    The Thai police said on Saturday that eight suspected red shirt leaders being detained at a seaside police camp south of Bangkok, had now been separated and had their phones taken away.

    The police said they put the men in the one house because there were not enough rooms elsewhere and the house was more secure.

    Umnuay Nimmano, the deputy commander of the Metropolitan Police, said that police could not imprison the detainees because they had not been convicted of any crimes.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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