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Thai anti-government protesters hold large march in Bangkok

Thousands of anti-government protesters have marched throught the Thai capital, Bangkok, to call for political reform ahead of elections. The march comes after a lull in such rallies.

Thai protesters on Saturday marched from their base in Bangkok's Lumpini Park toward the Royal Plaza near parliament, calling on the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to yield power to an unelected council that would oversee political reforms ahead of new elections.

"We want to show the government that the people don't want them anymore," protest leader and former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban said. "We don't expect today's march to affect the government, but we want them to know the people have had enough."

Police put the crowd at around 30,000 by mid-morning. No violence has yet been reported.

Election annulled

The march was the first major rally in Bangkok since the country's Constitutional Court ruled on March 21 that last month's election, which seemed certain to confirm Yingluck in office, was invalid.

The court said that the outcome of the election was incomplete following disruptions to the vote by anti-government protesters, who forced some polling stations to close and even prevented some from opening.

No date has yet been set for new elections, but election officials say it will take at least three months to organize them. Yingluck currently heads a caretaker government with limited powers.

Continuing unrest

Protests aimed at ousting the government began in early November, after it attempted to introduce an amnesty that would have benefited Yingluck's elder brother, self-exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thaksin was ousted in a military coup in 2006, accused of abuse of power and corruption.

The protests at first drew hundreds of thousands of people, but numbers have been dwindling since violent attacks on rallies last month that killed 12 people, including four children.

The protesters have now installed their headquarters in the central Lumpini Park, setting up a tent city there.

Corruption accusations

Pressure on Yingluck has been increased by accusations of dereliction of duty levelled at her by the country's National Anti-Corruption Commission in a case her supporters call politically motivated. The case, which is connected with Yingluck's handling of the government's hugely uneconomic flagship rice subsidy program, could lead to her impeachment.

She is due to submit her defense on Monday.

Government supporters have said they are prepared to respond with force if she is forced from office, raising fears of growing political violence in the country.

Yingluck's ruling Pheu Thai party have won every national election since 2001.

tj/msh (AP, dpa)

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