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The Big Story

Thai protests build as pandemic fuels unrest across Southeast Asia

How COVID aggravated inequality and triggered political reckoning across the region

GWEN ROBINSON, Nikkei Asia editor-at-large, MARWAAN MACAN-MARKAR, Asia regional correspondent and SHAUN TURTON, contributing writer | Thailand

BANGKOK/PHNOM PENH -- Something changed in the tone of the protests sweeping Thailand when police on Friday turned water cannons on youthful activists in central Bangkok. The confrontation was at a rain-soaked intersection, only meters away from the spot where, a decade earlier, security forces had shot and killed scores of anti-government protesters.

The crowd on this stormy Oct. 16 night represented a new generation of activists taking on the ultimate taboo subject: the immense power and wealth of the Thai monarchy. They are led by students, many of them of high-school age, and tonight they were determined to stand their ground. Ploy, a 19-year-old university student, and her two friends braced themselves as jets of blue-tinged liquid hit the crowd.

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