New push to 'shut down' Bangkok on Jan 13

New push to 'shut down' Bangkok on Jan 13
Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (C) smiles prior a meeting at the international exhibition hall in Chinag Mai province on December 27, 2013.

BANGKOK- Bangkok is bracing itself for fresh protests from today as anti-government activists attempt to ramp up a more than two-month-long campaign to force the caretaker government to resign.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban last night declared that his mass rally to "shut down" Bangkok will begin on Jan 13, with smaller marches planned in the lead up to the day. "We will stay in the streets and paralyse this proxy government," he said.

Yesterday - the last day of candidate registration for the Feb 2 general election - protesters continued to blockade selected venues in southern Thailand, with at least four out of 76 provinces facing registration problems.

The election commission, while not extending the deadline, plans to discuss what to do next.

Southern Thailand is a stronghold of the opposition Democrat Party, which has not won an election since 1992 and is boycotting these polls.

It has thrown its weight behind the anti-government campaign - led by former senior Democrat Suthep - which has vowed to block the polls to counter the electoral supremacy of the Puea Thai party.

Instead, it wants to first put in place political reforms that would rid the country of the influence of self-exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who is thought to control the government through his sister and caretaker prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Protesters have vowed to "seize Bangkok" after the New Year holidays, which would mean no end in sight to the unrest for ASEAN's second-largest economy, where the value of its currency has fallen and economic prospects have taken a hit.

Although Thai law requires at least 95 per cent of the Lower House to be filled before it can convene, analysts do not expect the registration process to be the biggest issue in the ongoing crisis.

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