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Thailand PM tells protesters to 'go out and vote' if they don't like her government

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra wants to go ahead with elections on Feb. 2, despite continuing mass protests in the streets of Bangkok.

Thailand opposition flag wavingEnlarge
Anti-government protesters wave a flag in the pre-dawn hours in Bangkok on Jan. 15, 2014. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images)

Thailand's embattled prime minister urged anti-government protesters occupying the capital's streets on Wednesday to voice their dissent at the ballot box.

"If people don't want this government they should go out and vote," Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said

Shinawatra held talks Wednesday to discuss the possibility of delaying the Feb. 2 election, but the country's election commissioners and opposition leaders did not attend.

Though there is a chance Shinawatra may still postpone the election, she repeated her view that it's not legally possible to do so. 

Mass protests continued and some of the more hardline protesters threatened to shut down air traffic control centers and block the country's stock exchange if Shinawatra does not step down from power.

So far there have been no signs of trouble on either front, and the large majority of protests have been peaceful. 

Still, there have been deaths, with the US Embassy in Bangkok saying that "while protests have been generally peaceful over the last two months, some have resulted in injury and death." 

Meanwhile, an unidentified explosive shook the home of opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, former prime minister and the current leader of the Democrat Party. No one was injured in the blast, which police said was likely not a bomb but a firework of some kind.

"There was no one at home at the time. The explosion destroyed part of the roof of the house. It wasn't a bomb. We believe it could have been a big firework," an unidentified officer at the nearby Thong Lor police station, told Reuters.

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Opposition leaders and the thousands of protesters on Bangkok's streets say new elections are not enough and want radical reforms to Thailand's political system.

They view Shinawatra as a puppet of her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was overthrown by a military coup in 2006 and now lives in exile. Parties affiliated with Thaksin have won every election in Thailand since 2001.

Some protesters have called for a "people's council" to be put in place of the current administration.  

There's also the possibility that Thailand's military could step in to the political crisis. Army Chief Prayuth Chan-ocha has refused to take sides in the current situation. However, in the last 81 years the country's military has staged or attempted 18 coups. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/140115/thailand-pm-set-feb-elections-despite-mass-protests