The Thai capital was gripped with its worst political violence in decades during the so-called Red Shirt occupation of downtown Bangkok, culminating in a military crackdown Wednesday that sparked a rampage by supporters who threw grenades and set fire to landmark buildings, including the country's stock exchange.
Most of the Red Shirt leaders have surrendered to authorities, but their treatment in custody has generated widespread criticism of the police after photos circulated on the Internet of the men looking relaxed and smiling for group shots in a spacious seaside house on a police base south of Bangkok that was used for their detention.
The men also had been allowed to keep their mobile phones and had been sending texts for days after being detained.
Police spokesman Prawut Thavornsiri told a news conference Saturday that police decided to put the leaders in the house because there were not enough rooms elsewhere and were more secure than other facilities.
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.
Thai authorities have heightened security in many areas of the country since Wednesday's crackdown in Bangkok. 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. Mr. 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.
Police in rural Thailand are so on edge about the violence that rocked Bangkok that they even arrested teenagers accused of playing with fireworks.
The teenagers were arrested for breaking a nighttime curfew that has been set in 24 provinces including Bangkok. Police later found that they had fireworks, according Manager, an online media outlet, and its affiliated ASTV television station.
Police in Chonburi province, where the youths were reportedly arrested, could not be reached for comment.
There is strong antigovernment 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.