'Insurrection' warrant issued for Thai protest leader Suthep: police

BANGKOK (AFP) - A Thai court on Monday issued an arrest warrant for protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban for "insurrection" over his attempt to topple the government, police said.

The warrant was issued "for the charge of insurrection which shall be punished with death or life imprisonment", said Chayut Thanataweerat, deputy metropolitan commander, in a televised statement.

While the charge is serious the death penalty is rarely carried out in Thailand.

Last week a court issued a warrant for Suthep's arrest for orchestrating the occupation of government ministries.

He already faces murder charges linked to his role in ordering a deadly crackdown on protesters in 2010, when he was deputy prime minister for the then-ruling Democrat Party administration.

But the firebrand protest leader has remained defiant despite his mounting legal problems, vowing to topple the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Thousands of his supporters clashed again on Monday as they tried to break through police lines and occupy key government buildings in the Thai capital.

Police fired rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon to fend off the ranks of stone-throwing protesters.

Suthep has delivered fiery speeches each night to rapt supporters around Bangkok, railing against what he sees as the scourge of ousted and exiled premier Thaksin Shinawatra and a graft-riddled government.

In his distinctive baritone he has accused Mr Thaksin of pulling the strings of his younger sister Ms Yingluck from overseas.

Suthep has called for the establishment of a "people's council" to replace the current democratic system under which Ms Yingluck took power.

In three decades in Thai politics, the 64-year-old has risen from village headman to lawmaker and then deputy prime minister from 2008-2011.