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September 22, 2017

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Thai protesters launch 'final fight' to topple government

BANGKOK -- Thai police fired tear gas Friday at protesters who called for the nation's Senate to aid their bid to topple the embattled government, two days after the prime minister was stripped of office.

Scenting blood after Wednesday's court decision to remove Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban handed a petition to the upper house urging it to decapitate a government they say has lost all legitimacy, and appoint a new premier.

"We want the president of the upper house and the members of the upper house to think about the way out for the country," said Suthep.

With the government weakened but still standing, the call for an appointed administration appears to lack legal grounds.

Earlier Suthep led thousands of protesters, who had fanned out from their main encampment in a park in the city's commercial district and brought traffic to a standstill in a day of choreographed actions.

Authorities said they briefly used water cannon and tear gas to hold off a hardcore group of anti-government protesters led by a Buddhist monk, who were attempting to enter a fortified police club.

The city's Erawan Emergency Centre said six people were taken to hospital after the incident at the police club.

With protesters back on the streets after a relatively quiet few months, fears are again simmering of street clashes between rival political groups.

The ruling Puea Thai party has replaced Yingluck with Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan and is targeting July 20 elections to end the six-month political crisis, which has left the kingdom without a fully functioning government and chiseled away at the Thai economy.

But the Thai courts have now booted out three prime ministers linked to Yingluck's family, who have swept every poll since 2001.

The Thai army ousted Yingluck's billionaire brother Thaksin from power in a bloodless coup in 2006, sending the country spinning into political turmoil.

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