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Thai PM insists she will not resign before polls

BANGKOK — Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said Tuesday she would not resign ahead of national elections set for Feb. 2, despite opposition demands she step down as the caretaker head of government.

Yingluck spoke one day after she announced elections — and one day after the main opposition leader ended a massive protest rally of 150,000 people by insisting his movement had now assumed broad political power.

The streets of Bangkok were quiet Tuesday, a national holiday, after weeks of sometimes violent political turmoil as protesters demand Yingluck give up power to an unelected "people's council."

The protesters accuse Yingluck of serving as a proxy for her billionaire brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who lives in self-imposed exile to avoid jail time for a corruption conviction but still wields immense influence in the country.

Yingluck told reporters Tuesday that "I must do my duty as caretaker prime minister according to the constitution."

She became choked up when asked about her family's role in Thai politics.

"I'm not without emotion," she said, her voice quavering. "I'm also Thai. Do you want me not to step foot on Thai soil anymore?

"I have retreated as far as I can. So I ask to be treated fairly," she said, turning and walking quickly away from the podium.

Her brother Thaksin, a former telecommunications billionaire, was toppled by a 2006 military coup that laid bare a deeper conflict between Thailand's elite and largely urban middle class on one side, and Thaksin's power base in the countryside on the other. That base benefited from his populist policies designed to win over the rural poor.

Ever since, the two sides have been dueling for power, sometimes violently. Since the latest unrest began last month, at least five people have been killed and at least 289 injured.

The latest round of protests started last month when Yingluck's party tried to pass a bill that would have granted amnesty to Thaksin and others.

The protesters were not quieted by Monday's announcement of new elections, saying they cannot win the polls because of corruption. The opposition Democrat Party, allied with the protest movement, has been defeated by Thaksin-allied parties in every election since 2001.

A decree from King Bhumibol Adulyadej scheduled the elections on Feb. 2 and named Yingluck as interim prime minister until then.

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Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra arrives to talk to media after attending a Cabinet meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, Dec. 10. Shinawatra said Tuesday she would not resign ahead of national elections set for Feb. 2, despite opposition demands she step down as the caretaker head of government.

(AP)

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