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Thai PM rejects protesters' call for election

THAI Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said today his government would not bow to protesters demanding a new national election within 15 days.

The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, which gathered 30,000 supporters yesterday, also demanded Abhisit sack his Foreign Minister and prosecute leaders of a rival protest group that closed Bangkok's airports in November.

"They can't say it should be done within 15 days because some issues need time to process," he said, referring to a demand to take legal action against the leaders of the royalist People's Alliance for Democracy.

Abhisit was speaking to reporters on his return to Bangkok from the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

Leaders of the UDD, which broadly supports ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, said that if their demands were not met, they would stage more and larger protests.

The UDD accuse Abhisit of being a stooge of the army and the PAD, a charge he denies. His foreign minister, Kasit Piromyas, was regular speaker at PAD rallies.

Yesterday's march, which passed off without incident, ends a month of relative calm in Thailand's three-year political crisis, which has distracted policy makers from dealing with an economy teetering on the brink of recession.

Analysts say the outlook for political stability remains bleak as long as the rift between Bangkok's royalist military and business elite, who accuse Thaksin of corruption, and rural voters who loved his populist policies, remains unresolved.


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