Youth in Action: January-February 2021

January 31, 2021

From the January-February 2021 issue of News & Letters

by Buddy Bell

Youth protesters and others on Oct. 15, 2020, at Ratchaprasong calling for reform and the release of their friends. Photo: ฮินะจัง เชียงใหม่

“It’s important for me and for Thailand, the future of this country belongs to us. The parliament, the Cabinet…may be in power now, but the country needs the younger generations for the future,” says high-schooler Akkarasorn Opilan. Since August, a youth protest to end military rule and strip the powers from the monarchy has been thronging Bangkok’s main streets, including children as young as 10. Many of the youngest students seek to reform a strict traditionalist school system that emphasizes rote learning. A sign read: “Our first dictatorship is school.”

On Nov. 21, the “Bad Students” organization filled a major intersection at rush hour, where protesters in dinosaur and meteor suits proclaimed an end to the “dinosaur age.” “The dinosaurs are these government officials who have decision-making power over our lives…They’re conservative, old-fashioned and refuse to change. Their time is up,” said Pimchanok Nongnual. The protesters have continued marching despite water cannon and tear gas attacks, and a state of emergency declaration on Oct. 15. They’ve reached out to Hong Kong and Taiwan, adopting some of their ideas, such as using umbrellas to protect against a spray of water laced with chemicals wielded by police. Another borrowed idea is to use emojis in horizontal decision-making, to vote on whether to rest or keep going, which can avoid the arrest of an apparent ringleader.

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Hundreds of students at Bogazici University in Istanbul marched to the edge of campus on Jan. 4 to oppose Prof. Melih Bulu’s elevation to the position of university rector (president). Bulu is a loyal member of Turkey’s ruling party and was selected by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who did away with student elections of university presidents in 2016. Students are demanding Bulu’s resignation and a new election to fill the post. A protester giving her name as Selen told Agence France Presse: “Academia is above ideologies and politics, but to appoint a rector to our university in defiance of the will of the university members is a political move.” The protesters and reporters who tried to cover the event were beaten by police and assailed with tear gas and rubber bullets.

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Rural Pakistani youth pedaled 100 miles from Palangi to Kahuta in protest of flour prices. On Jan. 15, they surrounded a building in the Kahuta town square where Mujtaba Farooqi, a leader of Haveli Youth Alliance, demanded a resumption of government flour subsidies.

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