Suthep hailed 'hero' in hometown

SURAT THANI — People’s Democratic Reform Committee leader Suthep Thaugsuban was hailed a hero and welcomed by thousands of people when he set foot in his hometown for the first time in eight months on Tuesday night after spearheading anti-government protests in Bangkok.

Mr Suthep arrived at Surat Thani airport on THAI Smile flight WE2255 and was met by a huge crowd of PDRC supporters, local politicians and residents. 

The group thronged the airport’s arrival hall. Many gave Mr Suthep flowers and asked to take photos with him.  

They praised him for leading the months-long street protests that culminated in a military coup that ousted the Yingluck Shinawatra-led government, which the PDRC called the proxy government of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. 

The supporters at the airport gave Mr Suthep the sobriquet of “Hero from the Tapee river basin”.

Tapee is the largest river in the Southern region. 

After leaving the airport, Mr Suthep faced another crowd of supporters estimated at about 2,000 waiting for him in front of his home at Ban Don Rak in tambon Nong Sai of Phunphin district.

On Wednesday, reports said visitors were seen entering and leaving the PDRC leader’s house throughout the day.

Mr Suthep’s warm, superstar-like homecoming came after his controversial remarks over the weekend in which he claimed he had been advising the junta chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha on how to root out the influence of Thaksin and his allies since 2010.    

He also said that Gen Prayuth told him it was time for the army to take up where the PDRC left off shortly before martial law was announced. Gen Prayuth strongly denied discussing such issues with Mr Suthep. 

The PDRC is known to have strong support from people in the South. During the time that Mr Suthep's movement reached the peak of its popularity, it was claimed an estimated 3.5 million people turned out on Bangkok streets on one particular day, Dec 22, to support the call for the ouster of the then caretaker premier Yingluck.

Mr Suthep, also known as Lung Kamnan, collected 10 million baht from donators when he led a 10-hour protest march from Ratchadamnoen Avenue to Yaowarat and even appeared on the front cover of a glossy fashion magazine, which made recorded sales when the issue hit the newsstands.

Mr Suthep said the PDRC had now set up a foundation to push for national reforms and insisted that he would not return to politics.

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