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Tough routine for 'Kamnan Suthep'

Longterm MP who has quit politics now aims to end rival's career also

"Kamnan Suthep" (Tambon headman) has become Suthep Thaugsuban's popular alias after he decided to step down from public office and lead protesters against Yingluck Shinawatra's government.

Observing a march of the anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee in Bangkok yesterday, Facebook user Amm Anyama, posted that the hottest TV stars had nothing on Suthep at this point: "Even if we throw 10 Nadech [Kugimiya] and James Ji [Jirayu Tangsrisuk] on Silom Road right now, Uncle Kamnan is more popular, I'd say."

It has been nearly two months since Suthep started the protest against the amnesty bill at Samsen train station before changing and expanding the rally to sites such as Democracy Monument, the Finance Ministry, the Government Complex at Chaeng Wattana and Nang Lerng intersection.

Over this period the protest has morphed into a demonstration to try to oust the "Thaksin regime", as Suthep has drawn increasing moral support from people in Bangkok and other protesters.

The former Democrat has given his all to the protest. Staying at the rally site, Suthep's daily activities begin after he wakes up at about 6am and walks around the site to inspect the protest environment.

Around midday Suthep has a meeting to check the situation for whatever is on the day's agenda. In the evening, he is usually up on stage, speaking to supporters - speeches that are usually relayed to a far wider audience via the Blue Sky TV network. They can be long days and he often doesn't get to bed till about 2am.

On November 26, Suthep had just an hour's sleep because of rumours that police were set to arrive and arrest him. And on November 27, he led protesters rally to the Government Complex in the north of the capital.

Most days Suthep has a group of fans that crowds around him all time, both when he's in public or resting in a private room. They like to take photos with the protest leader and when he appears in public some protesters are liable to scream out when they see his now famous tanned face.

The longer he has led the rally the more than popular he has become (although the opposite could be said about the feeling of those politically at odds with the man and his goals). One thing seems sure, and that is that Suthep has a down-to-earth personality and doesn't need the frills of the well-to-do - he's comfortable sitting on the street and eating from a foam box.

Some fans said they felt lucky to meet him. And they have given him special souvenirs - such as a gold whistle, dolls in his likeness and even a Suthep key ring.

Suthep is 64. A graduate with a bachelor's degree from Chiang Mai University, he also has a master's in political science from Middle Tennessee State University, from 1975.

After he returned to Thailand, he registered as a headman candidate at tambon Tasaton in Surat Thani province. He won the election to be tambon headman at the age of 26.

Suthep was elected as a Surat Thani MP in 1979 and has won a seat in every of general election since - till he decided to resign this year.

Despite his age and the tiring routine the protests entail, Suthep remains healthy, partly because he has had good care from his wife Srisakul Promphan. She appears at the back of stage every night to give him moral support. She has also brought her son and daughter, Akanat and Teerapa Promphan, to be close allies at the rally site.

Akanat is a spokeman for the protest movement and Teerapa a coordinator for Suthep.

Teerapa said Suthep was very healthy despite having less time to sleep. Her mother, Srisakul, helps by preparing vitamins for him.

But every coin has two sides. Even though Suthep look like a star when he leads the protesters, his opponents make a mental note of his every move.

Several times on stage Suthep has said there is someone who wants to nail him - someone who wants a sniper to shoot him. Not surprisingly, he is surrounded by security guards - no less than 40 people on the inner and outside circle.

For the protesters he is a superstar, but for his opponents, he is the man most wanted.


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