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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

100,000 Activists Call for Thai Leader to Step Down

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra dismissed calls for his resignation Monday, heightening tension after thousands of anti-government activists marched to his office and vowed to rally every day until he steps down.

"I will not resign because my resignation will not resolve anything," Thaksin told reporters.

At least 100,000 protesters filled the streets around Government House on Sunday and stayed until well past midnight following a boisterous rally accusing Thaksin of corruption and abuse of power. Some 2,000 remained early Monday and vowed to regroup in larger numbers later in the day.

The commander in chief of Thailand's army, meanwhile, sought to ease speculation of the army intervening and staging a coup, as it did in 1992 and more than a dozen other times during earlier political crises.

"The army will not get involved in the political conflict. Political troubles should be resolved by politicians," said General Sondhi Boonyaratkalin, echoing comments of other top military officials. "Military coups are a thing of the past."

Thaksin said he had not personally followed the events of the rally but was informed by aides that protesters "were insisting on ousting me." He left the capital, Bangkok, early Sunday to campaign in the northeast for snap elections he has called for next month.

"As long as the people support me, I will still work, because that is how a democracy works," Thaksin told a cheering crowd of supporters Monday in northeastern Khon Kaen province, an area where he has widespread support.

Thaksin's critics are primarily from Thailand's urban middle class. Tens of thousands of protesters have been demanding Thaksin's resignation at regular weekend rallies in recent months, putting him on the defensive and leading to the country's biggest political crisis since 1992, when street protests forced the ouster of a military backed government.

The anti-Thaksin campaign swelled last month after the prime minister's family sold its controlling stake in telecom giant Shin to a Singapore state-owned investment company, netting 73.3 billion baht ($1.9 billion). Critics allege the sale involved insider trading and tax dodges and complain that a key national asset is now in the hands of a foreign government.

The prime minister has repeatedly rejected calls for his resignation and instead called snap elections for April 2.

Opposition parties have vowed to boycott the elections, which Thaksin -- whose populist policies have earned him widespread popularity in rural areas -- would almost certainly win.

A group of activists seeking to have the elections declared unconstitutional had filed a petition to Thailand's Administrative Court. But the court, which handles complaints against state bodies, said Monday that it was unqualified to accept the petition, said Ampol Singakowin, the court's spokesman.