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September 23, 2017

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Election best way to end crisis: Thai PM

BANGKOK -- Thailand's prime minister urged anti-government protesters Wednesday to vent their anger against her at the ballot box, insisting that elections were the best way to solve the country's deepening political crisis.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has faced weeks of mass street demonstrations seeking to force her elected government from office and install an appointed "people's council" in its place.

The protesters aim to rein in the political dominance of Yingluck's billionaire brother, fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, whom they accuse of controlling the government from self-exile.

Yingluck hosted talks Wednesday to discuss a proposal by the country's election commission to postpone the polls, but the opposition as well as the kingdom's election commissioners — who are in theory independent — refused to attend.

While she did not completely rule out a delay, Yingluck reiterated her concerns that the constitution does not allow a postponement of the February 2 polls.

"If people don't want this government they should go out and vote," she said.

Many of her opponents, who include much of the country's royalist establishment, do not want the February polls to go ahead, fearing they will only return the Shinawatra family or its allies to power.

They say electoral reforms are needed before a vote is held in at least a year's time, but deny they are seeking to suspend the country's fragile democratic system.

Defiant demonstrators vowed to keep up their efforts to oust the prime minister with their self-styled "Bangkok shutdown" by occupying key intersections in the city.

Tensions flared overnight after two people were slightly wounded in a shooting by unknown gunmen at an anti-government rally in Bangkok's commercial district, while a small blast shook a house owned by the opposition leader's family.

"The two incidents are a signal that the people's revolution has almost succeeded," rally leader Suthep Thaugsuban told reporters as he led a march through upscale neighbourhoods of Bangkok.

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