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Opposition party resigns en masse from Thailand's parliament

NEW DELHI — After several days of relative calm in Bangkok, the main opposition party raised the stakes Sunday by resigning en masse from parliament in protest over a government they claim is illegitimate.

By aligning with street protesters, the opposition Democrat Party is threatening to deepen the country's political standoff. The Democrats, who have not won an election since 1992, are betting that their political fortunes will be advanced by aligning with anti-government street protesters.

"The solution to our current problems needs to start with the showing of responsibility," Democrat leader and former premier Abhisit Vejjajiva said in announcing the immediate resignations.

The political crisis was sparked last month when Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's government tried to pass a law that would have granted amnesty to her brother, telecommunications tycoon and former premier Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin was convicted of corruption in 2008 and has been in self-imposed exile since.

The bill failed to pass the Senate. But the initiative upset a fragile social peace between Thaksin supporters and opponents. Protests since then have resulted in at least five deaths and 289 injuries in and around official buildings as anti-government demonstrators have sought to bring Yingluck's administration to a halt. The protesters say Yingluck, 46, is a puppet for her brother, whom they accuse of buying her 2011 election.

Yingluck's Pheu Thai party won decisively at the polls. Street protests reflect frustration among her party's opponents, analysts say, because they have made little traction with a majority of Thai voters. Protesters have demanded that a nonelected "people's council" replace parliament.

The protests are led by Suthep Thauksuban, a former deputy prime minister who has rejected negotiations with Yingluck's government. He's also called for a final push to overthrow the government today.

Protesters say they're planning massive demonstrations that will converge on Government House, the seat of Yingluck's power, from several directions. If the protests fail, Suthep has vowed to turn himself over to the police, who've issued an arrest warrant for him.

Today's planned show of strength follows another "victory day" push a week ago that failed. After that, demonstrators took a break for several days in honor of the king's 86th birthday Thursday. Yingluck has proposed a referendum to try to resolve the country's political crisis, offering to dissolve parliament and hold elections if the two sides can agree.

All 153 lawmakers of the Democrat party — who hold less than one-third of the 480 seats in the lower house of parliament — have vowed to resign. Yingluck's party holds a solid majority.

Opposition party resigns en masse from Thailand's parliament 12/08/13 [Last modified: Sunday, December 8, 2013 10:43pm]
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