Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has proposed new elections for early February, hours after dissolving parliament. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people are taking part in fresh anti-government protests.
Yingluck Shinawatra's government said Monday it had called fresh elections for February 2, 2014, as protesters resumed their demonstrations in the capital, Bangkok.
Government spokesman Teerat Ratanasevi told the Associated Press news agency the date, which needs to be formally approved by the Thai Election Commission, was put forward in a Cabinet meeting in Bangkok.
The move came shortly after Yingluck issued a televised address announcing plans to dissolve parliament and hold elections post-haste.
"At this stage, when there are many people opposed to the government from many groups, the best way is to give back the power to the Thai people and hold an election. So the Thai people will decide," Yingluck said. She said she would first seek the required royal decree to dissolve the current parliament.
Protesters, led by recently resigned opposition politician Suthep Thaugsuban, have been demonstrating in the Thai capital for weeks. They accuse Yingluck, among other things, of being a puppet of her elder brother Thaksin Shinawatra – Thailand's former prime minister who was ousted by the military in 2006 and then fled the country in 2008 facing a conviction on corruption charges.
An estimated 140,000 people marched through the streets of Bangkok on Monday, calling for a "final showdown" against the government. The peaceful protest followed a lull in Thai unrest last week as the country celebrated the birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
'We will continue our march'
Yingluck's Pheu Thai party has not lost at the polls since the turn of the century; opposition leader Suthep had called not for a vote, but for the formation of a "people's council" to temporarily replace the government.
Soon after Yingluck's announcement, protest leader Suthep told several news outlets that plans for a fresh election did not satisfy him.
"Today, we will continue our march to Government House. We have not yet reached our goal. The dissovling of parliament is not our aim," Suthep told the Reuters news agency.
The Pheu Thai party won just under 50 percent of the vote and a narrow majority in terms of parliamentary seats in the country's last general election in 2011.
The vote was clearly divided along geographical lines; the opposition Democrat Party claimed almost all of its seats along Thailand's western border and in the south of the country. The Pheu Thai party was strongest in the country's poorer, rural northern and eastern regions.
The Democrat Party on Sunday said it would withdraw all of its 153 MPs from the 500-seat lower house. Prime Minister Yingluck had responded by suggesting a referendum on dissolving parliament.
ccp, msh/kms (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)