News / Asia

Thai Government Shows off Red Shirt Weapons Cache

Thai officials say they have proof anti-government protesters holed-up in the heart of Bangkok earlier this week were armed and dangerous.

The Thai government Saturday displayed a cache of weapons - including rifles, grenades, ammunition and components for bombs - it says it found earlier this week after troops moved in on a Red Shirt stronghold, part of the government's effort to bring the protests to an end.

A Thai government spokesman also accused two foreigners Saturday of taking part in a string of arson attacks that followed the government's final crackdown on protesters.  He said one of the foreigners, a white Westerner, played a role in setting a fire that partially gutted Thailand's biggest shopping mall.

Firefighters Saturday worked to put out the last of the fires while investigators collected additional evidence left by protesters.

Government officials said they hoped to reopen Bangkok's major public transit systems Sunday and ease other restrictions.  A nighttime curfew imposed in Bangkok, and 23 provinces, expires Sunday morning.

At least 83 people were killed and another 1,800 wounded since the Red Shirts began their demonstrations in March.  Officials estimate the riots and violence that marked the end of the protests did an estimated $1 billion in damage.  

Police say eight protest leaders are being held at a military camp south of Bangkok for interrogation.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva called Friday for national reconciliation, promising the government will meet the "huge challenges" ahead as it seeks to heal deep political divisions.

Meanwhile, city workers in Bangkok cleared debris left behind following days of violent clashes and rioting.

Red Shirts and human rights groups have condemned the government's use of deadly force to disperse the protests, while protesters returning home to northern Thailand received a hero's welcome at the Chiang Mai train station.  Many Red Shirt supporters in the crowd, still angry with the Abhisit government, vowed to continue to fight.

Mr. Abhisit has offered to dissolve Parliament and hold new elections on November 14 - key demands of the Red Shirts.

The U.S. Embassy is telling American citizens to "maintain a low profile" and to avoid activities outside at night until the situation improves.

 

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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