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Thailand to proceed with election despite protests

Bangkok: Thailand's government vowed Tuesday to push ahead with controversial elections this weekend, despite threats by opposition protesters to disrupt the polls in an attempt to stop the ruling party returning to power.

The announcement followed talks between Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and election officials, who urged a delay following violence in which at least 10 people have been killed and hundreds injured in grenade attacks, drive-by shootings and clashes.

In the latest incident, shots were fired Tuesday near a Bangkok army facility where Yingluck was holding meetings, as hundreds of protesters massed outside. Emergency services said two people were injured although the exact circumstances were unclear.

The Thai capital has been shaken by nearly three months of mass street demonstrations, demanding Yingluck's elected government step down to make way for an unelected “people's council” that would oversee reforms aimed at curbing the dominance of her billionaire family.

The kingdom has been bitterly divided since Yingluck's older brother Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted as prime minister by royalist generals in a coup more than seven years ago.

Critics accuse the billionaire tycoon-turned-politician of controlling his sister's government from Dubai, where he lives to avoid prison for a corruption conviction.

The Election Commission (EC) proposed during Tuesday's talks to postpone the election for 120 days, but after discussions it agreed with the government to press ahead with the Feb 2 vote.

The EC fears that there might be “clashes” during voting, election Commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn told reporters, adding that polling stations would close early in the event of problems.

The main opposition Democrat Party is boycotting Sunday's polls, saying reforms are needed to ensure the vote is truly democratic and to prevent abuse of power by the next government.

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