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Thai PM vows to dissolve parliament, hold elections ‘as soon as possible’

Thai PM vows to dissolve parliament, hold elections ‘as soon as possible’
Thailand’s prime minister has announced parliament will be dissolved and early elections demanded by the opposition will be held as “soon as possible” after opposition MPs backed protesters in their bid to oust the government.

"At this stage, when there are many people opposed to the government from many groups, the best way is to give back the power to the Thai people and hold an election. So the Thai people will decide,” PM Yingluck Shinawatra said on national TV on Monday.

But as hundreds of thousands people resumed their protest on Monday, opposition leader Suthep Thaugsuban announced the dissolution of parliament wasn’t the protesters’ ultimate goal, Reuters reports.

"Today we will continue our march to Government House. We have not yet reached our goal. The dissolving of parliament is not our aim," Suthep Thaugsuban said.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban rides on the back of a motorcycle among anti-government protesters during a rally in Bangkok December 9, 2013. (Reuters / Dylan Martinez)

In a previous televised address on Sunday, Shinawatra proposed to dismiss the House of Representatives and call early elections within 60 days as required by the constitution – if the people vote for elections in a referendum first.

“I would like to confirm once again that I am not clinging to my position. I am willing to dissolve the House or resign if I am convinced that it would really be a way out to solve the problems and enable the country to go forward. That is to say, the decision must be truly made by the majority of the people,” said Shinawatra, who became prime minister in 2011.

Her address aired on Thai television after Shinawatra, 46, held consultations with members of the government.

She warned that in case the opposition does not like the proposal, or would not agree with the results of the democratic elections, the crisis would only be prolong as it was in 2006, when political chaos in the country ended up with a military coup.

Shinawatra said the opposition’s demands for her ouster were unprecedented and possibly illegal.

“To have a government without an election is a big issue which can affect the image and confidence of the country. If this proposal is to be put into practice, the people should be asked whether it is acceptable to them. Therefore, a public referendum is required and this method is allowed by the constitution,” the PM announced, stressing that the government would consider protesters’ proposals on Monday December 9, to find a way out of the political deadlock.

“I’m willing to listen to proposals from the protesters. I’m not addicted to this title,” Shinawatra said. "I'm ready to resign and dissolve parliament if that is what majority of the Thai people want.”

“Today, nobody is a loser. All of us, including the nation, are winners," she said.

In the meantime, anti-government protests in the Thai capital continue as the leaders of the opposition People's Democratic Reform Committee are calling on the PM to resign.

Thai anti government protesters dance as they rally at Government Complex in Bangkok on December 8, 2013 (AFP Photo / Pornchai Kittiwongsakul)

The protesters who for weeks have been occupying the center of Bangkok and clashing with police are calling Yingluck Shinawatra a puppet of her brother, former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, and are rallying in an effort to oust her.

The leader of the anti-government protesters, former Deputy PM Suthep Thaugsuban, has called on opposition activists to converge on Bangkok on Monday to carry out the “final blow” against the government, with a mass rally near Government House to force Yingluck Shinawatra from power.

The government is getting ready for the demonstration, enforcing the security of key governmental facilities in Bangkok with hundreds of police officers.

On Saturday, National Security Council secretary-general Paradorn Pattanatabut warned the public that the Internal Security Act enables the government to impose a curfew and set up police roadblocks if demonstrators become violent.

The ongoing protests in Thailand are only the latest chapter in nearly a decade of bitter political rivalry between the Bangkok-based establishment and supporters of the self-exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. He fled the country in 2008, but remained an influential figure in the country’s political life.

Over the last several years, Thaksin Shinawatra, a billionaire and former telecommunications tycoon, and now his sister Yingluck have gained large electoral support from people in Thailand’s countryside for their populist policies.