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Politics

Thailand's prime minister rejects protesters' demand to step down

Thailand’s prime minister has said she intends to remain in office on a caretaker basis until snap elections early next year. The opposition is demanding an unelected "people’s council" be appointed to curb corruption.

Protests in Bangkok

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Tuesday appealed to the opposition to accept early elections as a way out of Thailand's political crisis and for protesters to clear the streets.

"I have retreated a lot, and I don't know how to retreat more. So I ask to be treated fairly," Yingluck told a Bangkok press conference after a cabinet meeting.

"I must do my duty as caretaker prime minister according to the constitution," she added.

She also accused the opposition of pursuing a campaign against her family.

"I'm not without emotion," she said. "I'm also Thai. Do you want me not to step foot on Thai soil anymore?"

Yingluck's older brother, Thaksin Shinawatra is a former prime minister who has been living in exile since 2008 to avoid serving a two-year jail term after having been convicted of abuse of power.

Demand for a 'people's council'

The prime minister's pledge to stay in office on a caretaker basis until the election set for February 2, follows a call issued by protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban late on Monday in which he demanded that Yingluck to step down within 24 hours to make way for an unelected "people's council."

Speaking to an estimated more than 100,000 supporters outside of the government's headquarters, Suthep cited a clause in Thailand's constitution, which states that "the highest power is the sovereign power of the people."

Thailand has been in upheaval since former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was toppled in a military coup in 2006. The latest protests were sparked by an attempt by his sister's government to pass a bill that would have granted an amnesty to Thaksin, possibly paving the way for his return. The demonstrators accuse Yingluck of acting as a proxy for her brother.

pfd/kms (AP, Reuters, dpa)

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