Thai opposition protesters gear up for fresh mass rally

Thai opposition protesters gear up for fresh mass rally

BANGKOK - Thousands of Thai anti-government protesters massed ahead of a major rally Sunday aimed at suspending democracy, paralysing parts of central Bangkok a day after the main opposition party declared a boycott of snap polls.

At least 1,000 people - mainly women - also gathered early Sunday outside Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's suburban house amid tight security, according to an AFP reporter at the scene, with thousands more expected.

The premier, who was forced to dissolve the house in early December after the Democrat Party resigned en masse from parliament, is in the north-east of the country, the heartland of her ruling party.

Demonstrators want to rid Thailand of Yingluck and the influence of her Dubai-based brother Thaksin - an ousted billionaire ex-premier who is despised by a coalition of the southern Thai poor, Bangkok middle classes and elite.

Firebrand protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, who has vowed to destroy the "Thaksin regime", dismisses Yingluck's call for an election on February 2, saying it will install another Thaksin-allied government.

Instead the self-proclaimed People's Democratic Reform Committee is calling for an unelected "people's council" to be installed to oversee sweeping reforms before new elections in a year to 18 months.

His movement was bolstered Saturday by the Democrats' announcement of a poll boycott.

The move dismayed the prime minister who said elections must take place to secure Thailand's fragile democracy.

"If we don't hold on to the democratic system, what should we hold on to?" she told reporters Sunday.

"If you don't accept this government, please accept the system," she said, adding elections will allow protesters to be heard at the ballot box.

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