is dominated by military m
en and the new “civilian” president is an ex
-general who was
previously the junta’s prime minister.
For now, Ms. Suu Kyi is biding her time and trying to make sense of the new politicallandscape. Her followers, meanwhile, are focusing on establishing the NLD
which lost itsstatus as a legal political party after refusing to register for the elections
as a social force
and in building up Myanmar’s nascent civil society.
“We must bear in mind that until we grow strong we can’t do anything,” said Myo Yan
Naung Thein, a veteran of past student-led protests against the regime who now teaches theyounger generation to question what the government tells them and to debate what they cando about it.He said civil society in Myanmar has grown rapidly in the wake of the devastating CycloneNargis in 2008, which brought a rare influx of foreign aid money, and with it internationalrelief organizations, which hired and trained local staff.Despite two lengthy prison terms, the 36-year-
old’s desire to see change come
hasn’t dimmed from when he joined anti
-government protests in 1988, 1996 and 2007. Butthe former student leader now talks about the classes he teaches at Bayda like a corporate
strategist. “We are networking to build strength,” he says. “We ne
ed to focus on capacity-
He’s also very aware of the fact Myanmar’s feared military intelligence agents could shutdown the Bayda Institute at any moment. In an effort to show the government they’re not
doing anything illegal, the group has posted all of its course material online, and even invitedsecurity officers to sit in on its classes.
“We’re not doing this so that we can all go to prison. Misunderstandings or fear on thegovernment side is very dangerous for us,” Mr. Naung Thein said, admit
ting he worries the
government could quickly close the limited political space it has opened since Ms. Suu Kyi’s
release.Another hurdle such youth networks face is a sense among young Myanmarese that any effortto change the country is doomed to fail. While previous generations of students repeatedly
took to the streets to demand change, a calculated apathy today rules among Myanmar’syoung people. The failed 2007 “Saffron Revolution” –
which saw soldiers open fire onmonk-led demonstrations
has killed almost all appetite for politics among those 25 andyounger.At a skate park east of Rangoon, two dozen young people take turns trying to impress eachother with jumps off the end of a rusted and graffiti-strewn ramp. The skaters are typicallyanti-establishment
they hate the music industry, and cover songs in particular
but politicsis purposefully the last thing on their minds.
“I don’t care about politics. I’m just interested in skating,” explains Khent Hein, the 27
-year-old founder of YGN Skate Zone,
Myanmar’s first skateboarding group. He and his friends
wear ball caps and sneakers, emulating the style of hip-hop stars in the faraway United States.