Thai military and police increased their surveillance Friday of people in the country's north suspected to be allied with protesters who paralyzed Bangkok with demonstrations that led to violence, fearing further outbreaks in the provinces.
Intelligence officials have information suggesting protesters have moved underground and could be planning violent retaliation in their strongholds, which are in the north and northeast of the country, said assistant army spokeswoman Lt. Siriya Khuengsirikul.
Siriya said the army is confident it can stop any outbreaks of renewed violence, and that the increased military watch was a precautionary measure.
The Red Shirt protesters, mostly members of the urban and rural poor who support ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, held two months of protests in the heart of Bangkok that turned into riots and left at least 88 dead and more than 1,000 injured.
Their demonstration was dispersed last week in a bloody military crackdown in which soldiers fired on them, used armored vehicles to knock down their bamboo-and-tire barricades and forced them to retreat from Bangkok's main commercial center.
Dozens of buildings were torched as the protesters retreated, including the stock exchange and a major shopping mall.
Most of the Red Shirt leaders were detained or submitted to questioning, but the movement itself was not disbanded and was expected to regroup in its provincial strongholds.
On Wednesday, acting police chief Prateep Tanprasert moved four provincial police heads in the northeast to inactive posts in Bangkok. Their relocation came after the generals failed to prevent angry Red Shirt supporters from burning local government offices.
Even so, a crisis panel recommended the situation had calmed down enough in the capital for a nighttime curfew to be lifted. It will remain through Friday night and be lifted after that. It will then be regularly reviewed in case it needs to be imposed again.
"We need to give the curfew lift a try, because it's the innocent people and businesses who're affected the most," said Siriya. "But that doesn't rule out the possibility of reintroducing the curfew."
The unrest in Thailand has opened a growing divide between Thaksin's supporters and those who back the conservative establishment, including many in the middle class who agreed with the 2006 military coup that ousted Thaksin.
Thailand has issued an arrest warrant for Thaksin after testimony by the Department of Special Investigations about his alleged involvement in the protests. It alleged Thaksin committed, threatened to commit or supported terrorist acts, but details were not disclosed.
Thailand's government urged him on Thursday to come out of self-imposed exile and face the terrorism charges, which carry a possible death penalty.
"It's best for Thaksin to return and fight it out in the court, which will deal with the case fairly," government spokesman Panithan Wattanayagorn said.
Thaksin has denied any involvement in the violence. He told Australian Broadcasting Corp. by telephone from an undisclosed location late Wednesday that he had never supported violence. He called the terrorism charges groundless and said he did not believe Interpol, the Paris-based international police intelligence-sharing association, would act on the warrant.