BANGKOK, Thailand - Thai officials Saturday displayed the large cache of weapons seized from a stronghold of antigovernment protesters in the heart of Bangkok that the military cleared after a violent two-month standoff and 85 deaths.
Police also said eight Red Shirt leaders have now been separated in detention, their phones have been seized, and they are under armed guard, after police were criticized as treating the protest leaders with leniency.
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 force when they moved in to clear the 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.
"The fires in many areas in Bangkok were well prepared - step by step," an 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 last two months.
Most of the Red Shirt leaders involved in the protests have 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 that police decided to put the leaders in that house because there were not enough rooms elsewhere and the house was more secure.
But after 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.
Some of the leaders continued to send text messages to supporters and the media for days after they were detained.