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Thai PM's tearful plea to protesters

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, her eyes welling with tears, has pleaded for anti-government demonstrators to clear the streets after she called a snap election.

However, protest leaders said she should step down within 24 hours.

After weeks of sometimes violent street rallies, protesters dismissed her call for a general election and said she should be replaced by an unelected "people's council". This has stoked concern that Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy may abandon the democratic process.

Ms Yingluck insisted she would not step down and said she would continue her duties as caretaker prime minister until the election, which is set for February 2.

She said: "Now that the government has dissolved parliament, I ask that you stop protesting and that all sides work towards elections. I have backed down to the point where I don't know how to back down any further."

Tears briefly formed in her eyes as she spoke, before she quickly composed herself.

The protesters want to oust Ms Yingluck, 46, and eradicate the influence of her brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled by the military in 2006. He is widely seen as the power behind Ms Yingluck's government, sometimes holding meetings with the cabinet by webcam.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban gave Ms Yingluck 24 hours to step down and said she should be replaced by a council of appointed "good people".

Ms Yingluck's Puea Thai Party enjoys widespread support in the populous north and northeast, Thailand's poorest regions. The party said she would again be its candidate for prime minister.

In contrast, the protesters are drawn from Bangkok's royalist upper and middle classes, including civil servants and prominent business families.

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