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Michael Sullivan

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CHIANG RAI, Thailand — Khet Thi made cakes, ice cream and poetry. The latter may have cost him his life.

He died in police custody in Myanmar early last month. The authorities say the cause was heart failure. His widow says he was beaten to death.

A civil engineer by training, the 43-year-old quit his civil service job in the central Myanmar town of Shwebo in 2012 and opened a cake and ice cream shop to support his poetry.

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The man who led the coup in Myanmar will meet with Southeast Asian leaders this weekend. They're going to talk about ways to end the violence there. Reporter Michael Sullivan has been asking, what are the chances it will work?

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The military in Myanmar is cracking down even harder on protesters. There are reports that security forces have shot and killed more than 90 people today. More than 320 people have been killed since the coup on February 1.

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Police in Myanmar have officially filed charges against the country's former civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. She is in detention two days after a military coup. Michael Sullivan has been following this story for us from Thailand.

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Thailand's prime minister has vowed to use all available laws to quash protests calling for his ouster, after parliament rejected key demands of the demonstrators by rejecting a motion to revamp the country's constitution and overhaul the monarchy.

Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former army chief who seized power in a bloodless coup six years ago, issued a statement on Thursday, addressing months of increasing unrest in the capital, Bangkok, led by students demanding a more freer and more open society.

Voters in Myanmar will cast their ballots Sunday in the country's second general election since the military ceded absolute power in 2011.

While the result appears predictable — analysts believe Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy will win again — the elections could further exacerbate the country's ethnic tensions due to the disenfranchisement of many minorities. The military establishment continues to wield significant political power. And COVID-19 may dampen voter turnout.

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There are protests in Thailand's capital today. Anti-government demonstrators in Bangkok are demanding the country's prime minister step down.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Non-English language spoken).

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Thailand's capital is on a kind of lockdown. But it's not the pandemic; it's politics. On Wednesday, tens of thousands of anti-government protesters gathered in Bangkok to push their demands for the military-backed government to step down.

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Lack of testing, mixed messages from the government and a rush to reopen.

No, not the U.S., but Indonesia, which has been hit far worse by the coronavirus than any country in Southeast Asia — more than 80,000 confirmed cases with over 3,200 dead, as of Thursday.

Epidemiologists say it didn't have to be this way.

"We have a lot of big, missed opportunities," says Pandu Riono at the University of Indonesia. "If you want to protect the people, do something seriously and do something right."

Indonesia's central government, he says, hasn't done much of either.

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In Indonesia, one of the countries in Southeast Asia hardest hit by the coronavirus, some residents are refusing to allow COVID-19 dead to be buried in their communities, despite government assurances that doing so is safe.

Vietnam shares a border with China, yet it has reported no deaths from COVID-19 and just 268 confirmed cases, when other Southeast Asian nations are reporting thousands.

Experts say experience dealing with prior pandemics, early implementation of aggressive social distancing policies, strong action from political leaders and the muscle of a one-party authoritarian state have helped Vietnam.

On a March morning at the Maetaeng Elephant Park in Thailand's northern Chiang Mai province, the elephants and their handlers, called mahouts, were entertaining visitors with tricks. Elephants painted pictures with their trunks and deftly back-kicked soccer balls into a net.

Maetaeng is one of the biggest wildlife camps in the north, with 85 elephants. They are also available for guests to ride or go trekking with in the surrounding hills.

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