NTIL the very recentpast, most youngpeople in Myanmarshunned political activitybecause o the dangersthat accompanied it.However while many stillappear disenchanted bythe prospect o a career inpolitics, the situation appearsto be slowly changing or thebetter, which is no doubt dueto the democratic reormsthat began taking place in2011. At a training centre runby the organisation Action Aid called Global Platorm,young people learn abouta variety o issues, such asgovernance, citizenship andcreative advocacy.One o the participants,22-year-old Toe Toe romMeikhtila in the MandalayRegion, has helped build alibrary and ounded a youthgroup in his community.“I am not interested inbecoming a politician. I wantto change the mindsets o people in order to help thembuild up our communityrom the bottom. The mosteective way to change thestatus quo is through theyoung generation, becausewe are still learning. Theyoung generation is theuture and possibly potentialleaders later on,” he said. Ater an exercise o teambuilding at GlobalPlatorm, the circle o youngpeople – some wearinglongyi and other jeans - splitup into smaller groups todiscuss cultural diversity. Another participant,25-year-old Phwe Yu Monwas one o the organisersbehind the irst Myanmar Youth Forum, which was heldin December and included157 representatives rom 14states and regions.She said, “Young peoplehave a lot o problems andthe biggest challenge orthem is education, becauseit oten doesn’t lead to jobopportunities. Our goal withthe Myanmar Youth Forumwas to build a network across the country toovercome the challenges weace. We need to be strongand know our rights to keepup the developments.”Participants in the orumidentiied various challengesand came up with potentialsolutions, which weresubsequently submitted tothe government.“Myanmar youth do notparticipate actively in politicalaairs because they areweak in… relying on onesel,leadership and knowledge,”a statement rom theMyanmar Youth Forum said.Capacity building hasbecome a catch-phraseamong politically consciousyouth, who recognise thatwithout the necessaryskills, their ability to play aneective role in politics isgreatly hampered.For more than 50 years,the amount o moneyinvested in educationhas been inadequateand universities droppedpolitical subjects, leavingan enormous knowledgevacuum. A teacher atBayda Institute, 32-year-oldZay Yah Oo, understandsirsthand how dangerouspolitical activism was in thepast. He was released romprison in the beginning o 2012 ater serving eightyears or breaking the StateLaw and Order RestorationCouncil Law Number 6/88 by“illegally organising under theUnlawul Association Act”.He has just inishedteaching a one-month coursein politics and public opinion.“Our aim is to create ademocratic atmosphere orthe youth o Myanmar. Theyoung generation shouldhave political knowledge inorder to understand theircountry, otherwise they can’tparticipate in politics as wemove towards democracy,”Zay Yah Oo said.Generation Wave isa pro-democracy groupthat was ounded in 2007ollowing the Saronrevolution. Membership isrestricted to people agedbetween 18 and 35 andcampaigns included ananti-government ilm called
that was distributedin unmarked packages in teashops and bumper stickersthat said “Change NewGovernment” (as opposedto the more commonlyseen “Compressed NaturalGas” stickers). Althoughthe group previously had itssae-house in Mae Sot, itmoved to Yangon ater themilitary government wasdissolved in March 2011.In January last year, manyo the 27 members whowere imprisoned or “illegalorganising” were released aspart o a mass presidentialpardon. Each had been givena ive year sentence.Ko Khant Htun said he joined Generation Wave ayear and a hal ago aterundergoing training in MaeSot.“My political work overthe past year has been abig change o liestyle. Idon’t have a lot o riendsbecause they are araid mywork could land them in jail.But I won’t stop because Iam concerned or the nextgeneration. I don’t want myuture daughter or son togrow up like this,” Ko KhantHtun said.“I do a lot o work in thecommunity but I don’t wantto become a member o aparty, because then I won’tbe ree – I’ll be inluenced. And i I am a member o theparliament, I won’t have thechance to communicate withthe public. In my opinion, theparliament is not in touchwith the people. They are just sitting on their chairs inparliament,” he said.Ko Khant Htun was notthe only one to expresscynicism about a careerin politics – many otheryoung people said theyeel disconnected rom thepolitical process. Although the NationalLeague or Democracy has aspeciic strategy to promoteyoung people’s participation,it has no estimate on howmany o their 600,000members are below the ageo 30.By contrast, U HtayOo, vice chairman or theruling Union Solidarity andDevelopment Party, said thatUSDP has more than ourmillion members between theages o 18 and 35, “who areall involved in the party.” This high igure may beattributed to the act thatuniversity students mustregister as a USDP memberwhen they commenceuniversity studies.“We have a basic strategy
Jessica Mudditt, Myo Lwin
Shwe Ye Saw Myint, Yu Yu Maw,Maria Danmark, Aung Shin, MyoLwin, Jessica Mudditt, Khin Su Wai,Yamon Phyu Thit
Htet Aung Kyaw (HAK)
Yoon Wadi Lwin Moe
Ko Taik, Douglas Long, PhilipMcKinney, Jessica Mudditt, Thiri Lu,Htet Aung Kyaw
Cover & Layout Design:
Tin Zaw Htway, Ko Pxyo
I don’t want to become a memberof a party, because then I won’t befree – I’ll be influenced.
Youth engagement in
Members o Generation Wave take part in ademonstration in Yangon in December againstLetpadaung copper mine in northwestern Myanmar,ollowing a crackdown against monks who opposedthe Chinese-backed project.
PHOTO: Supplied by Generation Wave
A Myanmar TimesSpecial Report
For enquiries and feedback: