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All Thai opposition MPs resign

BANGKOK -- Thai opposition lawmakers resigned en masse from parliament Sunday, deepening the kingdom's political crisis as anti-government protesters vowed a final showdown despite an election offer from the embattled prime minister.

Bangkok is bracing for another major opposition demonstration on Monday aimed at toppling Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and curbing the political influence of her brother Thaksin.

The kingdom has been rocked by several episodes of political bloodshed since Thaksin, a billionaire tycoon-turned-premier, was ousted by royalist generals in a coup seven years ago.

Yingluck's government has been shaken by more than a month of rolling rallies by demonstrators, sometimes numbering in their tens of thousands, who want to suspend the country's democracy in favor of an unelected “People's Council.”

The opposition Democrat Party said Sunday that its 153 MPs were resigning from the 500-seat lower house — a move that does not prevent Yingluck's Puea Thai party from passing new laws but which leaves parliament facing questions about its legitimacy.

“We performed our duty in parliament as best we could,” said Democrat leader and former premier Abhisit Vejjajiva. “We cannot do any more. We regret that the majority in parliament betrays the voice of the people.”

The move came soon after Yingluck renewed her offer of elections if the protesters — a mix of royalists, middle class Thais and other Thaksin opponents — agree to respect the democratic process.

“The government is ready to dissolve the house if the majority wants it,” she said in a televised address, noting that under the kingdom's laws an election would have to be held within 60 days.

But “if protesters or a major political party do not accept that or do not accept the result of the election, it will just prolong the conflict,” she said.

She also floated the idea of a referendum to solve the crisis but it was unclear what the nation would be asked to vote on.

The protest leaders have said that they would not be satisfied with new elections, but the opposition Democrats hinted that it might take part in any new polls, even though they have not won an elected majority in about two decades.

“House dissolution is one way of returning power to the people. But there must be a solution to make people confident in the election,” Abhisit said.

Thailand's political conflict broadly pits a Bangkok-based middle class and royalist elite backed by the military against rural and working-class voters loyal to Thaksin.

Pro-Thaksin parties have won every election in more than a decade.

The former premier went into exile in 2008 to avoid jail for a corruption conviction which he says was politically motivated.

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Former Thai Prime Minister and opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, center, addresses a news conference at the Democrat Party headquarters in Bangkok on Sunday, Dec. 8. (AFP)

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