|Anti-government protesters march through a business district during a protest in Bangkok, Thailand, March 29, 2014. Thai anti-government protesters on Saturday launched a mass rally in the capital Bangkok to push for national reform before a new general election. (Xinhua/Gao Jianjun)
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BANGKOK, March 29 (Xinhua) -- Thai anti-government protesters on Saturday launched a mass rally in the capital Bangkok to push for national reform before a new general election.
This is the first mass rally staged since protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban announced in late February to end a weeks-long operation to paralyze the capital, known as "Bangkok shutdown."
The Saturday rally is a call for carrying out immediate reform before any hasty election, Suthep said. He has led several warm-up marches in Bangkok over the past days to mobilize people to take part.
At around 10 a.m. local time, protesters started marching from their main rally site at the Lumpini Park to the Royal Plaza. Tens of thousands of people have been joining in and crowding the streets.
The Erawan Emergency Center of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration has prepared more than 40 medical teams to see to people who join the march.
Suthep called the mass rally soon after the Constitutional Court annulled the Feb. 2 general election on March 21.
Following the court verdict, the Election Commission (EC) is obliged to organize a new election in a 60-day time in accordance with the constitution and electoral law. But it is widely speculated that any new poll might be deferred indefinitely.
The Democrat Party, former major opposition that boycotted the Feb. 2 election, has yet to decide whether to contest a new one, while 53 other parties have voiced their support for a fresh election to be held soon.
Leaders and representatives of the 53 parties on Friday urged the EC to meet with the caretaker government next week to discuss preparations for a new election.