BANGKOK, Thailand -- More than 100,000 anti-election protesters paralyzed Bangkok's key intersections on Sunday (Dec. 22) to hear their leader, an alleged multiple-murderer, demand February's nationwide poll be cancelled so he can ban the popular prime minister and her allies from power.

Some laid cremation wreaths in front of Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's residence to spook her, though Ms. Yingluck was touring near the Mekong River in northeast Thailand where she derives most of her support.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban describes his "people's revolution" as democratic.

Mr. Suthep insists that after he blacklists Ms. Yingluck, her wealthy family, and their allies from politics, Mr. Suthep will clamp Thailand under a "people's council" of 400 unidentified appointees to "reform" the entire system of government.

About 18 months later, Mr. Suthep would permit an election to form a regime which would also empower plenty of other appointees.

A distillation of Mr. Suthep's speeches indicates his scheme resembles "positive liberty," an antique political theory which claims a minority of privileged people can tell the majority who to obey, because otherwise the deluded masses would elect despicable leaders.

Mr. Suthep simultaneously wants to weaken Thailand's police, even though they are too timid to arrest him on a warrant for allegedly leading the current "insurrection" -- punishable by life in prison or lethal injection.

More than 100,000 mostly Bangkok-based middle class and elite supporters, joined by some southerners, cheered Mr. Suthep on Sunday (Dec. 22) after thronging his other Bangkok rallies which began on Oct. 31.

Supporters shoved currency notes into his hands because the Department of Special Investigation, Thailand's equivalent to the U.S. FBI, said last week it would freeze Mr. Suthep's bank accounts.

Many mild-mannered Thais poured into the streets and earlier occupied government buildings not because they love Mr. Suthep, but because they despise Ms. Yingluck's older brother, Thaksin Shinawatra.

"I don't support Suthep as a person, but I am against Thaksin, so maybe it is time to go to war against those corrupt politicians," said one Thai who asked not to be identified because he has a high position in a U.S. government organization.

"Sometimes you have to fight to make things right. An election is not going to help us. The system needs to be reformed," he said, becoming angry.

"You see how Suthep's supporters have occupied government ministry buildings and blocked the streets? Maybe they will block all the voting booths and occupy the Election Commission building so the election can't be held," he said.

Candidates can begin registering on Monday (Dec. 23) for the Parliament elections, but protesters will oppose the registrations.

"If someone hopes to apply as a Member of Parliament candidate, he or she must pass our rally," Mr. Suthep announced on Sunday (Dec. 22).

"We will block it [the registration office] for half a day, but we will block everywhere on the February 2 election day," Mr. Suthep said.

The anti-election protesters oppose Ms. Yingluck's reliance on Mr. Thaksin who travels in international self-exile while dodging a two-year prison sentence for corruption.

Meanwhile, this Buddhist-majority country remains beholden to the military's whims.

In public, the top generals snubbed Mr. Suthep and supported plans for an election on Feb. 2 for Parliament's House of Representatives.

Ms. Yingluck dissolved the House on Dec. 9 in a failed bid to soften the protests and prove she holds a mandate to rule, leaving a half-appointed Senate still in place.

Will the army allow the election and support the new government, which Ms. Yingluck and her allies are predicted to win?

"We must not look at the situation in Bangkok, alone, but see what is happening in the provinces," Army Chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha warned on Friday (Dec. 20).

"The division is in all tambons [sub-districts] and the situation could trigger a civil war," said Gen. Prayuth who played a role in a 2006 coup which toppled Mr. Thaksin, even though he won three nationwide elections.

Some Thais fear the military may use the political confrontation as a excuse to postpone the polls, shove politicians aside, and let Mr. Suthep or his allies seize power in a quasi-civilian coup.

After the 2006 coup, the military supported Mr. Suthep and the seemingly bland Abhisit Vejjajiva, who eventually became prime minister.

Thailand's Criminal Court recently agreed with the Office of the Attorney General to indict Mr. Suthep and Mr. Abhisit for premeditated and attempted murders allegedly committed in 2010 when Mr. Suthep was deputy prime minister in Mr. Abhisit's unpopular government.

The charges involve their relationship with the military, which opened fire on protesters who demanded both men resign so Mr. Thaksin could return to power.

At least 90 people died during the nine-week, often violent protest by pro-democracy Red Shirts and others, and most of the dead were Reds and other civilians.

Mr. Abhisit and Mr. Suthep deny the charges.

All sides accuse the other of extrajudicial killings, massive corruption, greed, and authoritarian policies.

Mr. Thaksin is criticized for negligently presiding over his "war on drugs" in 2003, which resulted in 2,800 deaths under murky circumstances never fully investigated.

Mr. Thaksin denied responsibility.


Richard S. Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based journalist from San Francisco, California, reporting news from Asia since 1978, and recipient of Columbia University's Foreign Correspondent's Award. He is a co-author of three non-fiction books about Thailand, including "Hello My Big Big Honey!" Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews; 60 Stories of Royal Lineage; and Chronicle of Thailand: Headline News Since 1946. Mr. Ehrlich also contributed to the final chapter, Ceremonies and Regalia, in a new book titled King Bhumibol Adulyadej, A Life's Work: Thailand's Monarchy in Perspective.

His websites are:

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(Copyright 2013 Richard S Ehrlich)