BANGKOK, Thailand -- Violence worsened on Monday (Dec. 2) between anti-government mobs using a hijacked bulldozer, fire engine, garbage truck and homemade explosives to attack police who responded for the first time with rubber bullets after the prime minister rejected the insurrectionists' demands to cancel Thailand's elections and submit to a dictatorial "people's council".

The Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban on Monday (Dec. 2) on charges of insurrection, punishable by life imprisonment or death under the Criminal Code's Section 113.

Insurrection under Section 113 includes anyone who "threatens to commit an act of violence" to "overthrow" the government or "seize the power."

Mr. Suthep responded on Monday (Dec. 2) night by taunting the police to "catch him" and said they should defect to his side or else his protesters would strip them of their uniforms.

"We will seize Bangkok's police headquarters" on Tuesday (Dec. 3), Mr. Suthep told his protesters occupying offices in a government complex.

Mr. Suthep said the military, by contrast, would not hurt protestors and could help them topple the government.

"The protesters' demands are impossible to meet under the framework of the constitution," Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra calmly told a news conference earlier on Monday (Dec. 2).

Ms. Yingluck met protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban on Sunday (Dec. 1) night, and heard his demands that her popularly elected government immediately undergo the civilian coup Mr. Suthep is trying to stage.

Their talks were held at an army installation and attended by Army Chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha who played a role in a bloodless 2006 military coup which toppled Ms. Yingluck's brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, despite Mr. Thaksin' three-time victory at the polls since becoming prime minister in 2001.

The U.S.-trained, but poorly disciplined, military's role as mediator between the prime minister and the protest leader indicated the army held some advantages in running Thailand, compared with Ms. Yingluck's vulnerable position.

"The military has positioned itself as neutral and it wants to see a peaceful way out," said Ms. Yingluck, 46, a civilian who is also defense minister.

At their meeting, Mr. Suthep demanded Ms. Yingluck resign, Parliament be dissolved, fresh elections be banned, many "bad politicians" be blacklisted -- including Ms. Yingluck, Mr. Thaksin and their relatives.

Instead of Thailand's fragile democracy, an unelected "people's council" be formed to appoint a "people's government."

Mr. Suthep's ill-defined council would "pick a good man to be the prime minister, good men to be ministers," he said in a earlier speech while occupying the Finance Ministry.

Mr. Suthep, 64, recently declared himself secretary-general of a People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) to lead the protest, and is a former opposition Democrat Party member of Parliament.

Mr. Suthep's supporters forced several government-run TV stations to broadcast his propaganda on Sunday (Dec. 1) nationwide, prompting complaints by Thai journalists about their loss of media freedom.

On Monday (Dec. 2), anti-government protesters seized a big red fire engine and used the vehicle as a water cannon against police after hijacking a garbage truck and yellow bulldozer which they tried to drive at police barricades.

Mobs also attempted to cut electricity cables leading to key buildings.

The thousands of mostly young, angry men were trying to storm the prime minister's vacated Government House office and nearby police headquarters.

Police fired rubber bullets for the first time, plus tear gas and water cannons, defending makeshift barriers of concrete and barbed wire around the buildings.

More than 100 saffron-robed Buddhist monks reportedly suffered when billowing clouds of tear gas wafted into their ornate temple, making it impossible for them to walk out and collect their daily alms.

Earlier, at least three people were killed when protesters and pro-government supporters fought each other in Bangkok's darkened streets on Saturday (Nov. 30) night near a stadium.

There were no reports of deaths involving police battling the mobs, but both sides suffered injuries from thrown objects, and a handful of protesters suffered rubber bullet wounds.

Mr. Suthep, 64, has steadily lost public support during the past few days of escalating brawls, after enjoying widespread support when the protest began peacefully on Nov. 24.

Most businesses, shops, office workers, and government officials ignored his repeated demands for a nationwide strike to shut down Thailand on Monday (Dec. 2).

Protesters however continued to occupy the Finance Ministry and a large government complex, enjoying its glistening facilities while camping in tents and sleeping bags inside the lavish buildings.

Mr. Suthep's promise to stage peaceful protests also faced credibility problems after Bangkok suffered from his supporters' street rage.

Ms. Yingluck's inability or unwillingness to order security forces to clear the protesters from all government facilities is seen either as her weakness in governing, or a costly way of maintaining the high ground of trying to end the crisis without bloodshed.

Protesters meanwhile "plan to spray feces at police," to escalate their fight, the Bangkok Post reported on Monday (Dec. 2).

"Demonstrators had fecal suction trucks ready to use against security forces," it said, apparently describing vehicles that collect excrement from Bangkok's septic tanks and sewers.

"Tourists need not be alarmed of the presence of security forces and checkpoints in Bangkok," the government's Tourism Authority of Thailand announced on Monday (Dec. 2), at the start of this Southeast Asian country's lucrative tourist season.

"Security has been stepped up to prevent ill-intentioned people from inciting violence," said the office which usually gushes about Thailand as "The Land of Smiles."


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)