Youth leads Asian demonstrations
Youth

Youth leads Asian demonstrations

Mar 9, 2021, 7:47 AM
JM Taylo

JM Taylo

Writer

As demonstrated in recent years in Southeast Asia, the youth are in the frontlines of their country’s democratic struggle.

For the next 7 months, what initially seemed to be disorganized and leaderless campaign generally planned via social media, became a national calling for greater democracy and police accountability.

PROTESTS in Hong Kong, Thailand, and Myanmar have one thing in common: the youth are in the frontlines of their country’s democratic struggle.

In the succeeding years of 2019 to 2021, scores of protests in many Asian countries grow in major international significance.

Though it’s never the likes of Arab Spring in the Middle East and the Maghreb, it shared the same test on the political institutions and the ruling elites of their countries.

Hong Kong

In 2019, millions took to the streets of Hong Kong to protest the extradition amendment bill which could have enabled the country to extradite its citizens to countries like mainland China and Taiwan—a move seen by pro-democracy supporters as a threat to Hong Kong's autonomy and the civil liberties of its people.

Though demonstrations in the country occurred as early as 2014 during the “umbrella movement” which challenged the move of China to rule out universal suffrage, this time the people didn’t hold back.

For the next 7 months, what initially seemed to be disorganized and leaderless campaign generally planned via social media, became a national calling for greater democracy and police accountability.

The government on the other hand, responded with crackdowns and arrests.

Among the major figures of the protests were Joshua Wong, Ivan Lam, and Agnes Chow who were all in their 20’s.

The trio were jailed last December 2020 after pleading guilty to protest-related charges such as inciting an unlawful assembly.

"At the time of uncertainties, some of us may feel uneasy and anxious, but I ensure you that all these pains and sufferings would only strengthen our courage and conviction for democracy and justice. Cages cannot lock up souls." said Wong on his Twitter account.

 Youth leads Asian demonstrations

Youth leads Asian demonstrations from new york times

Thailand

All across Thailand, student-led demonstrations in mid-2020s emerged as an act of defiance against the rule of the royal family and the military-led government.

The social media-coordinated protests were mainly done using symbolism such as holding sheets of white paper, wearing white ribbons, and the raising of a three-fingered salute derived from the novel the Hunger games.

The protests demanded for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s resignation and the abolishment of the monarchy which they say undermining the country’s democracy.

Although, such bold statements are punishable under Thailand’s lese-majeste laws which criminalizes the defamation, insulting, or threatening of the royal family, the King requested no prosecutions.

Despite this, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights group say around 103 cases of student harassment and suppression on the account of expressing their political view, were documented.

 Youth leads Asian demonstrations

Youth leads Asian demonstrations from Al Jazeera

Myanmar

In the picket lines of Myanmar’s quest to regain its democracy versus the military junta who deposed the civilian government of State Counselor and noble laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the youth can also be seen risking their lives.

On March 3, a 19-year-old named Kyal Sin was killed after state forces opened fire on the protesters in Mandalay where the teenager and her friends were participating.

Before being shot in the head, she could be seen wearing a black T-shirt that said, “Everything will be OK,” also shouting: “We will not run!” against state forces. A symbol that represents the struggle of its people.

Sin’s funeral was attended by a multitude of pro-democracy supporters and her image was displayed on many different ongoing rallies in the country.

Maybe for others, the naivety and vigor of the youth seemed misplaced. However, we can never wrong the idea of what they are trying to fight for. They will inherit the world after all. (JT)


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