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Thousands Gather in Thailand to Demand Prime Minister's Resignation


In Thailand, thousands of protesters are gathering in central Bangkok to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Organizers say the rally will go ahead despite the prime minister's dissolution of parliament Friday and call for snap elections in early April.

Organizers say the rally will go ahead Sunday night as planned. One of their leaders, Suriyasai Katasila, says the protesters will remain at the public park in Bangkok until Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra steps down.

Suriyasai says Mr. Thaksin must resign as prime minister without condition. It is the third mass demonstration in as many weeks against Mr. Thaksin, who is facing a rising tide of criticism after the controversial sale last month of stock shares in a company he founded.

Mr. Thaksin, responding to the pressure, Friday evening announced on national television that he was dissolving parliament and calling elections in five weeks.

Mr. Thaksin says the election on the second of April will be important for the country, an election where people will decide which system they want. He says he will accept the people's decision and urges them to vote.

The embattled prime minister hoped to appease his critics by calling the vote three years early and one year after he was re-elected by a landslide. But many critics, including the two main opposition parties, say they may boycott the elections.

They note that the prime minister's party controls three-fourths of parliament seats and most local governments in the country. And they say there is not enough time to organize their campaigns. As a result they say the snap elections will only serve to keep the prime minister in office.

Critics say Mr. Thaksin lost the moral authority to govern after his family sold nearly two billion dollars worth of shares in the company he founded to a foreign investor without paying any taxes.

The tax-free sale was legal but it angered many Thais. Critics say the sale also placed in foreign hands strategic assets such as satellite and telecommunications licenses.

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