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Interview

Thai protest icon is 'prepared' to cross kingdom's forbidden line

21-year-old Panusaya defies decades-long taboo as 'it is good to feel angry now'

Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, a Thailand university student leader, at Thammasat University in Rangsit. (Photo by Marwaan Macan-Markar)

RANGSIT, Thailand -- A third-year undergraduate student strolls through the leafy campus of a prestigious Thai university with a group of friends, all of them co-eds in their early 20s. But it is far from a typical scene of student life -- they are her "security guards," each armed with mobile phones to witness, record and share online the moment agents of Thailand's pro-military government swoop to arrest her.

Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul is not taking chances with her safety at Thammasat University's branch in Rangsit, a city on the northern fringe of Bangkok, where she is majoring in social research. The 21-year-old picks secure venues for meetings, preferring quieter corners. And she has just moved from living in an off-campus building -- where policemen have been spotted monitoring the movement of residents -- into a student dormitory within the university.

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