Thai PM rejects protest calls as clashes rock Bangkok

Thai PM rejects protest calls as clashes rock Bangkok

BANGKOK - Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra rejected protester demands to suspend the country's democratic system and indicated she would not resign Monday amid rolling clashes between security forces and demonstrators bent on toppling her government.

Police used rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon against rock-throwing demonstrators as they intensified their defence of key government buildings after weekend unrest in the capital left several dead and over a hundred wounded.

The protests, aimed at unseating the elected government and replacing it with a "people's council", are the latest outbreak of civil strife to rock the kingdom since royalist generals ousted Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck's brother, seven years ago.

Bloodshed in the capital in recent days is the worst political violence in Thailand since a deadly 2010 military crackdown on pro-Thaksin "Red Shirts".

In her first televised address since the weeks-long protests descended into violence late Saturday, Yingluck said she could not accede to the demands of the protest leaders because they would breach the country's laws.

"Anything I can do to make people happy, I am willing to do... but as prime minister, what I can do must be under the constitution," she said, adding that she did not "cling to power".

The embattled premier said she would have considered resigning or calling an election if protesters had not already ruled out these moves as insufficient, insisting the government was open to "every option" to restore peace.

Protesters, led by former opposition MP Suthep Thaugsuban, on Sunday issued an ultimatum for Yingluck's government to be ousted and hand power "to the people" in a secret meeting with Yingluck in the presence of army, navy and air force commanders.

"There will be no bargaining and it must be finished in two days," said Suthep after the talks.

The demonstrators have rejected elections and said they want to root out the "Thaksin regime", in reference to the former premier who is widely seen as the power behind Yingluck's government.

Thaksin, a billionaire tycoon-turned-politician, is hated by the elites, Bangkok's middle class and southerners, who have massed in the capital in recent days and accuse the ousted leader of corruption and threatening the monarchy.

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