NEW: Yingluck says she doesn't want the country "to suffer from more losses"
The main opposition party had said its members would resign from parliament
Democrat Party says it has about 150 lawmakers in parliament
The Thai capital has seen large anti-government protests in recent weeks
After weeks of large anti-government demonstrations in the capital, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra dissolved the nation’s parliament Monday and called for new elections.
“I don’t want our country and the Thai people to suffer from more losses,” Yingluck said in a televised address. “I have decided to dissolve the house.”
Her announcement came as protesters began marching toward her office, known as Government House, in the latest effort to put pressure on her administration.
A day earlier, Thailand’s main opposition party said its roughly 150 members would resign en masse from parliament because they could no longer work with the government.
“This government is no longer justified to run the country, as this house is no longer justified. Today we resign to express that stance,” opposition party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said.
Dissolving parliament and calling elections appear unlikely to placate protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy prime minister for the Democrat Party. He has called for power to be transferred to an unelected “people’s council.”
During the weeks of demonstrations, protesters have occupied various government offices. The rallies have been mostly peaceful, but clashes between protesters and government supporters on November 30 left five people dead.
Protesters and police, who had confronted each other with tear gas and rocks in parts of Bangkok last week, agreed to a truce Tuesday in a show of respect for Thailand’s revered king, who celebrated his 86th birthday Thursday.
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 parties affiliated with Thaksin, who built his political success on populist policies that appealed to Thailand’s rural heartland, have won every election since 2001.
Thaksin 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’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 Yingluck of being nothing more than Thaksin’s puppet, an allegation she has repeatedly denied.