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Thai Opposition Protesters Snarl Bangkok Traffic

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Tens of thousands of Thai opposition supporters have taken over key intersections in Bangkok, snarling traffic as part of their campaign to topple the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and disrupt elections scheduled on February 2.

Although the protests halted much of the traffic in the main business district, life is continuing as normal in most of the city. Thousands of security officers are deployed in the Thai capital, but they took no action against the protesters.

Prime Minister Yingluck has dissolved parliament, called for the early elections, and proposed the formation of a national reform council as a way to resolve the months-long political crisis.

But the opposition has said that is not enough. Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban vowed Monday to keep the city shut down for as long as necessary.

He has called for a non-elected "people's council" to replace the current government and implement reforms to end corruption and money politics.



Analysts say the prime minister's ruling party is likely to win the snap elections next month.

A Duke University Southeast Asia expert now teaching in Singapore, Edmund Malesky, says what might resolve the crisis is a clear statement from the opposition about constitutional changes it would be willing to accept that include protections for minority rights.



"I really hope that the path forward is that the two sides can agree on a set of constitutional changes that allow for elections, that provide the checks and balances that the current protesters want. The potential solution is an electoral system that is properly balanced and has checks to protect the will of the minority."



The director of the Southeast Asia Center at City University of Hong Kong, Mark Thompson, says he is concerned about what will happen if the opposition is successful in ousting Ms. Yingluck from power.



"What worries me is you have a clear plan ongoing through both protests and the courts and administrative means, to get this government out and replace it with an unelected government. That in turn would lead to renewed "red shirt" protests, the pro-Thaksin protests, and that in turn could lead to violence as the military then moves to suppress those protests."



U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf on Monday said the U.S. is urging all sides to refrain from violence, and it applauds the restraint shown so far by government authorities.

The opposition views Ms. Yingluck as a puppet of her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup, convicted of corruption and now lives in self-imposed exile.

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