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By Chalathip Thirasoonthrukul
BANGKOK (Reuters) - Fugitive former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's supporters announced plans on Tuesday for a prolonged street protest beginning in late November and lasting until the government steps down and calls elections.
It would be the first protracted demonstration by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) since their protests in April turned violent and were forcibly ended by the army.
"The government is incompetent with only a self-serving agenda. We want the government to return power to the people," Jatuporn Phrompan, one of the key protest leaders said, adding that the plan is still tentative and is subject to discussion with other members.
He insisted the rally would be peaceful and that protesters would not break into government buildings.
Jatuporn said the "red shirts," as the UDD are also known, would begin the rally on November 29 and briefly suspend it from December 2 to December 5, a period when the country celebrates the birthday of revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Thailand's sole unifying figure.
"We will not stop until we finish the job," he said.
The UDD has held brief mass rallies on several occasions since a military crackdown in April, when Thaksin supporters gathered outside the prime minister's office and riots erupted in downtown Bangkok that left two dead and more than 120 injured.
After winning two landslide elections, Thaksin was ousted in a military coup in 2006. He remains at the centre of a bitter political struggle in Thailand despite living in exile after fleeing ahead of a two-year prison sentence for graft.
He faces a litany of corruption charges but has long maintained he is the victim of politically motivated attacks by his opponents in Thailand's aristocracy and powerful military. Thaksin's rural supporters, who benefited from his welfare policies, say he is their legitimate ruler.
The UDD protests have heaped more pressure on a shaky coalition government already in disarray. Continued uncertainty and fears of violence have rattled investors and triggered credit ratings downgrades in Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy.
(Writing By Ambika Ahuja; Editing by Jason Szep and Sugita Katyal)