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Opinion

Authoritarians are using coronavirus for power grabs in Southeast Asia

From Philippines to Cambodia, politicians take powers and cash to fight pandemic

| Thailand
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has been granted sweeping powers that extend to controlling information on the epidemic.   © Thailand Government House/Reuters

Richard Heydarian is an Asia-based academic, columnist and author of "The Rise of Duterte: A Populist Revolt Against Elite Democracy" and "The Indo-Pacific: Trump, China and the New Struggle for Global Mastery."

With the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging Southeast Asian nations, the region's leaders have found a unique pretext to consolidate power and muzzle critics. In a climate of fear and uncertainty, authoritarian-leaning figures from the Philippines and Thailand to Cambodia and Malaysia have used the need for unity to achieve unprecedented legal powers and silence the opposition.

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