Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said on Monday that she will dissolve the parliament's lower house and call elections in a bid to placate anti-government protesters who are demanding the setting up of an unelected “people’s council.”
Yingluck’s announcement came after opposition lawmakers tendered their resignation on Sunday, and ahead of a “final showdown” planned on Monday by the protesters, led by Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy prime minister who resigned on Nov. 11 as an opposition lawmaker to lead the protests that have spread to several parts of the country, resulting in sporadic clashes with government forces.
“After listening to opinions from all sides, I have decided to request a royal decree to dissolve Parliament,” Yingluck said in a televised statement, according to an Associated Press report. “There will be new elections according to the democratic system.”
Yingluck, who won elections in 2011, has not set a date yet for the elections, and it remains unclear whether her move would dissolve political tensions, because protesters -- including supporters of the monarchy and the urban middle class who dislike former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the powerful brother of Yingluck -- have denounced the democratic system and demanded that Yingluck and her family leave the country.
Thaksin was ousted in a military coup in September 2006 and has since been living in self-imposed exile in London and Dubai, while continuing to be a major influence in the ruling Puea Thai Party.
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Yingluck has also suggested holding a referendum to settle differences over Suthep’s demand for an unelected people’s council, according to the Bangkok Post. Suthep has urged protesters to remain peaceful during the mass rally on Monday.
“The movement will keep on fighting. Our goal is to uproot the Thaksin regime,” Suthep said, after Yingluck’s election announcement. “Although the House is dissolved and there will be new elections, the Thaksin regime is still in place.”
Protesters have begun marching on Yingluck's office in Bangkok's Government House and officials said about 100,000 people are expected to converge at the destination.
“Ms Yingluck’s responsibility is as great as Mr Suthep's to avoid violence in the protest march,” Bangkok Post said in an editorial. “Any violence, any deaths, and the chance to return to normalcy will be killed.”