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Pro-democracy activists in Myanmar unite under the Milk Tea Alliance

By Raymond Dai, Reagan Liu and Pavana Upadhyaya Apr. 28, 2021

Quincy Han Art


As Myanmar faces a military coup, pro-democracy activists in the country have been gaining support and solidarity from the Milk Tea Alliance, an informal group of activists from Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan named after a drink those countries have in common. On Feb. 1, the military seized control of Myanmar’s government after almost a decade of democratic elections over unproven claims of voter fraud. Prominent politicians, such as Nobel Prize winner and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, have been jailed and security forces have responded to protests with brutality. As of April 24, the United Nations (UN) stated that 550 people have been killed due to the takeover. In response to the coup and other anti-democratic events throughout the region, protesters across Asia are supporting each other through a broad coalition of pro-democracy activists, called the Milk Tea Alliance.


The hashtag #MilkTeaAlliance was first used in April 2020 as a symbol of resistance by pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong against Chinese nationalists on social media platforms such as Twitter. Since then, the hashtag has been used to raise attention about political events across Asia, such as Uyghur abuses in China, to advocate for self-government throughout the continent.



Quincy Han Art

While each country has its own struggles, efforts for government reform unites the activists across borders. Protestors resisting the coup in Myanmar can see the similarities between their cause and, for example, Thai activists’ fight against an absolute monarchy. Likewise, both Hong Kong and Taiwan face similar pressures against self-rule from Chinese influences. Thus, the hashtag is now being used to organize protests in Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Australia to support Myanmar in solidarity. Activists at these demonstrations held up a three finger salute, a dissent gesture from the popular Hunger Games franchise, which has been co-opted as a resistance symbol by the Milk Tea Alliance.


With supporters worldwide, suppressing the collective within Myanmar would entail hundreds of thousands of search warrants and arrests for physical protestors as well as online instigators that may exist outside of Myanmar’s borders.

Unfortunately, pushback against the pro-democracy movement in Myanmar has been fierce. Myanmar’s military, which ruled the country from 1962 until 2011, initially cracked down on protest by jailing opposition politicians and notable activists. However, unlike past uprisings, the digital influence of the Milk Tea Alliance has made military pushback difficult. With supporters worldwide, suppressing the collective within Myanmar would entail hundreds of thousands of search warrants and arrests for physical protestors as well as online instigators that may exist outside of Myanmar’s borders. Information sharing and promoting protests could spread through social media, thus making The Milk Tea Alliance popular among many youth Burmese.


“Using social media for resistance is very useful as it helps activists reach more people globally. In addition, social media makes organizing protests easier as people can reach an audience far beyond traditional means,” Freshman Aparna Bhattacharrya said.


Despite popular support among people internationally, the coalition faces resistance from surrounding governments.

Despite popular support among people internationally, the coalition faces resistance from surrounding governments. Nearby countries’ leaders, such as the Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte, believe that the coup is not an international issue, but an internal matter that should not be meddled with, while China, which has avoided intervening in past conflicts in Myanmar, states that it hopes for both sides to resolve differences.


In the face of common adversity, activists in Asia have joined forces, united by one goal: support democracy. The Milk Tea Alliance has used the power of social media to promote multiple causes in different countries, creating a uniquely powerful group of young activists fighting for their respective countries.

 

About the Contributors

Raymond Dai

Staff Writer


Raymond Dai is a sophomore at Leland High School and a Staff Writer for the Charger Account. He likes to play video games, play badminton and go out biking in his free time.








Reagan Liu

Staff Writer


Reagan Liu is a sophomore at Leland High school and a staff writer at the Leland Charger Account. He loves music and listens to many different genres of music in his free time. He never skips a meal and consumes all the nutrients needed to stay healthy.







Pavana Upadhyaya

Staff Writer


Pavana Upadhyaya is a sophomore at Leland High School and is a staff writer. She likes to read nonfiction in her free time

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