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December 19, 2013

Thai Opposition Protesters Renew Effort to Oust PM

by VOA News

Thai opposition protesters marched through the capital Thursday in a renewed effort to oust Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

The protest of around 2,500 people was smaller than those held before Yingluck dissolved parliament and called for new elections to help defuse the political crisis.

The opposition maintains that the concessions given so far are not enough. One of the protesters, Kaewpha Thalukbamsuk, said she views the current government as illegitimate.

"Even though [Yingluck] argued that she was elected by the majority, she needs to listen to the voice of the people at the moment. You can argue that you were elected, but the election was fraudulent, so that results in her not being the right choice," said Kaewpha.

Instead of elections, the protesters want Yingluck to hand over power to an unelected council. They say that she is corrupt and a puppet controlled by her brother, ousted ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

As many as 200,000 people have showed up at earlier opposition protests, some of which have involved activists occupying government ministries and other buildings.

The rallies began in late October in response to a bill that would have allowed Thaksin to return home from exile and avoid a jail term for corruption.

Thailand has experienced regular political turmoil in recent years. The conflict pits Bangkok's urban middle class and royalist elite against the mostly poor, rural supporters of Yingluck and Thaksin.

Last week, Yingluck announced that snap elections will be held on February 2. However, she has refused to step down, insisting the law says she must remain as caretaker prime minister.

Yingluck's Pheu Thai party is expected to easily win the February vote, thanks in part to the popularity of her brother, which remains high in the populous north and northeast due to social welfare programs he enacted while in office.