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Thai PM calls snap election, protesters press on

BANGKOK - Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra dissolved parliament on Monday and called a snap election, but anti-government protest leaders pressed ahead with mass demonstrations seeking to install an unelected body to run the country.

About 100,000 protesters marched through Bangkok, extending a rally that descended into violence before pausing late last week to honor the king's birthday. Blowing whistles, they vowed to oust Yingluck and eradicate the influence of her self-exiled brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

"At this stage, when there are many people opposed to the government from many groups, the best way is to give back the power to the Thai people and hold an election. So the Thai people will decide," Yingluck said in a televised address as the protests resumed across Bangkok.

The protesters ignored Yingluck's announcement, deepening nearly a decade of rivalry between forces aligned with the Bangkok-based establishment and those who support Thaksin, a former telecommunications tycoon who won huge support in the countryside with pro-poor policies.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban told Reuters he would lead a march to Yingluck's offices at Government House as planned.

"We have not yet reached our goal. The dissolving of parliament is not our aim," said Suthep, a former deputy prime minister under the previous military-backed government.

Yingluck's Puea Thai Party won the last election in 2011 by a landslide, enjoying widespread support in the north and northeast, Thailand's poorest regions. The pro-establishment opposition Democrat Party has not won an election since 1992.

Yingluck, Thailand's first woman prime minister, will stand again. "She will definitely run," said Jarupong Ruangsuwan, head of her party. "We want the Democrat Party to take part in elections and not to play street games."

The Election Commission has not set a date for the vote which must be held between 45 and 60 days of a dissolution.

Aware Yingluck and Thaksin's allies would almost certainly win, Suthep has called for a "people's council" of appointed "good people" to replace the government. Yingluck has dismissed the idea as unconstitutional and undemocratic.

Saying they were unable to work with Yingluck, the Democrats on Sunday resigned en masse from the House of Representatives, raising the question whether they would boycott the election and send Thailand into a deeper spiral.

Such a move would raise the prospect of a minority of people in Thailand, a fast-growing country of 66 million people in the heart of Southeast Asia with the region's second-biggest economy, dislodging a democratically elected leader without help from the military.

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All Thai opposition MPs resign
Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra speaks at the police headquarter in Bangkok on December 9. Thailand's premier called a snap election to try to defuse the kingdom's ...

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