BANGKOK - Thousands of anti-government protesters marched through the Thai capital on Sunday, a prelude to a broader action next week when they say they will shut down Bangkok in their bid to scuttle a February election and topple Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
The protesters, who accuse Yingluck of being the puppet of her self-exiled brother and former premier, Thaksin Shinawatra, have vowed to stop the Feb. 2 election. Instead, they want an appointed "people's council" to oversee reforms before any future vote.
The crisis has dragged on for weeks and has hit the Thai economy. It pits Yingluck and her brother and their support base among the rural poor in the populous north and northeast against protesters who draw support from Bangkok's conservative, royalist elite and middle classes and the south.
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, a fiery former deputy premier from the main opposition Democrat Party, said two more marches would be held on Tuesday and Thursday leading up the Jan. 13 "shutdown".
That event is shaping up as the biggest confrontation since the latest round of largely peaceful protests began in November.
The protests at times have brought as many as 200,00 people on to the streets, but have also sparked sporadic clashes with police in which three people were killed and scores wounded.
"We will keep walking, we won't stop," Suthep said on the march. "We will walk until we win and we won't give up."
Sunday's march began at Bangkok's Democracy Monument, where some supporters had gathered overnight. Suthep said the protesters would set up stages at five rallying points through the city leading up to Jan 13.
They plan to shut down government offices in an attempt to force Yingluck's administration to a standstill but, mindful of bloody crackdowns by police on similar protests, they have also said they will minimise the impact on ordinary Thais and will not target airports.