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Thailand prime minister calls for dialogue; predecessor faces murder charges

Thailand’s prime minister has called for emergency talks on the weekend to seek a way out of the country’s latest political crisis. This came as her predecessor appeared in court to face murder charges.

On Thursday, caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra called for a meeting on Sunday involving all sectors of society "to find the best way out for Thailand."

Delivered from an undisclosed location, the televised speech was the latest attempt by the prime minister to placate the thousands of opposition supporters who have taken to the streets to demand that she step down immediately.

On Monday, Yingluck had sought to resolve the crisis by

calling for snap elections.

The king swiftly granted the request, scheduling the vote for February 2.

This didn't go far enough for the protesters, who are demanding that she step down immediately and that an unelected committee be installed to run the country. They accuse her of acting as a proxy for her brother former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who lives in exile to avoid being jailed on a 2008 corruption conviction against him.

The current protests were sparked by an attempt by his sister's government to pass legislation that would have granted him amnesty and paved the way for his return.

Meanwhile, protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has requested a meeting with senior military and police officers by Thursday evening. He has also called on them to support the protesters.

Former PM charged with murder

Also on Thursday, former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was formally indicted during a brief appearance in a Bangkok court. The former premier denied the charges and was freed after posting bail.

"The pretrial hearing is expected on March 24 next year," his lawyer, Bandit Siripan, said afterward.

More than 90 people were killed and 1,900 others wounded after Abhisit's government authorized the limited use of live ammunition against anti-government protesters in 2010.

The murder charges against the former prime minister stem from the deaths of a 43-year-old man and a 14-year old girl, but it was not immediately clear why he has only been charged with only these two murders.

"Red shirt" protesters against his government occupied downtown Bangkok for more than two months in 2010, demanding that Abhisit step down.

Protest leader

Suthep,

a former deputy to Abhisit, was also expected to face charges, but has asked the court to postpone his hearing until next month.

pfd/kms (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)

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