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Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters march in Bangkok

By Kocha Olarn, CNN
December 22, 2013 -- Updated 1651 GMT (0051 HKT)
Thai anti-government protesters wave national flags as they rally in Bangkok on December 22.
Thai anti-government protesters wave national flags as they rally in Bangkok on December 22.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Protest leader calls for demonstration at site where election candidates will register
  • Protesters surrounded the home of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra
  • PM has called for February 2 elections, main opposition party says it will boycott
  • Protesters have occupied various government offices in the last few weeks

Bangkok (CNN) -- Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets of Thailand's capital Sunday, some surrounding the home of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, whom they want to oust.

An estimated 90,000 protesters were marching in Bangkok, Lt. Gen. Paradon Patthanathabut, Thailand's national security chief, told CNN. He said that number rose to 150,000 at the peak of the rally in the late afternoon.

He earlier said 10,000 had surrounded the premier's home while she tours the northeast provinces. The demonstration there was later disbanded.

In a bid to cool tensions, Shinawatra dissolved the nation's parliament earlier this month and called for new elections, to be held on February 2.

But the move has done little to appease anti-government protesters, who remained on the streets by the thousands.

Thailand protesters want PM to quit

The main opposition party, the Democrat Party, has said it will boycott the polls.

Speaking on one of the main stages set up at the rally, protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban asked demonstrators to surround a sports complex where candidates seeking to put themselves forward for the election will have to register their names.

Candidates have from Monday to Friday to do so.

Security beefed up

Security at the complex was being stepped up ahead of the start of registration, Paradon said, but he could not give figures.

During the weeks of demonstrations, protesters have occupied various government offices. The rallies have been mostly peaceful, but there have also been deadly clashes between protesters and government supporters.

Protest leaders have said they want to rid Thailand of the influence of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the older brother of Yingluck.

That's an ambitious goal in a country where every election since 2001 has been won by parties affiliated with Thaksin, who built his political success on populist policies that appealed to Thailand's rural heartland.

Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted in a military coup in 2006 and has spent most of the time since then in exile overseas. If he returns, he risks a two-year prison sentence on a corruption conviction, which he says was politically motivated.

The current protests in Bangkok were prompted by a botched attempt by Yingluck Shinawatra's government to pass an amnesty bill that would have opened the door for her brother's return.

That move added fuel for critics who accuse her of being nothing more than her brother's puppet, an allegation she has repeatedly denied.

CNN's Marie-Louise Gumuchian contributed to this report

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