It’s difficult to describe what the year 2011 is like for Southeast Asia in one word, because it’s not easy fitting this region into a box. But if I have to, it will be this: tumultuous.
It may not have evolved into a global phenomenon like how Tahrir Square has affected the way people think of democracies and how it has impacted the global youth, Southeast Asia has their fair share of conflicts, crackdowns, problems, achievements, disasters, all which equally grasp media headlines worldwide.
I specially chose the word tumultuous (meaning Excited, confused, or disorderly), because that very well describes the major events that has passed through us as we slowly cross the days of our calendars. From flooding in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, to the double typhoons faced by the Philippines, many are still reeling from the damages these troubled waters has done to our region. May the victims have a cosier night in light of the New Year approaching. Malaysia and Singapore were also not spared from various flash floods and monsoon rains that sometimes brought certain areas to a halt due to the massive puddles, causing inconveniences.
Political changes have also reshaped Southeast Asia in so many ways, it’s no longer the Southeast Asia I used to remember. Malaysia’s civil societies finally found a strong backing when they managed to mass mobilise 50,000 people in calling for free and fair elections in Bersih 2.0. Thailand elected the first female Prime Minister, Singapore underwent two elections that saw the ruling party having a decreased margin of voters supporting them, Myanmar begin liberating many militaristic policies, first with releasing some of the political prisoners to eventually welcoming the Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, the first diplomat from the United States of America to do since 1955. These events made me think that perhaps, we’re on a constant everchanging tide that will bring us forward. I wonder what 2012 has in store for us.
While I’ve already rounded up much of Southeast Asia in two paragraphs, I’d like to take the opportunity to talk a little bit about our website, SEA Youth Say So.
SEA Youth Say So was an idea that was brought up by Kirsten one sudden day in July (it’s sudden for me at least, but apparently it has been brewing in her mind for the past year). She asked me if I would like to be a contributor, writing stories for my country, and in the mean time, helped her edit certain articles as she was in Hong Kong at that time (She is back there now working).
It started as a website with a very loose concept, just something that can collect the writings of SEA youths, something small. But then, a few more came on board, and started to give us more ideas, refining SEA Youth Say So along the way. With the help of our talented webmaster and some ground rules laid out by some of our founding members, SEA Youth Say So is reborn into what you see today.
We didn’t anticipate its rapid growth and popularity within this region. We’re heartened to see entries and comments from all countries. We even managed to get a story from Brunei and Laos. I hope for the next year we’ll have a voice from Timor-Leste. Let’s not forget them, they are also a part of this very young region.
As Kirsten and I received most of the submissions first, we can proudly say that we published all the stories with little to no edits needed. We read these stories first before everyone does, and every time I read someone else’s story, I learn something new. I could envision the descriptions laid out by these writers because of their words. After all, we used to have a motto called “Southeast Asia through the eyes of the young”. Every young person has got a story to tell about their country, and no story is considered unimportant to us.
It’s through these stories that I’ve learnt about what it means to not just be a Malaysian, but a Southeast Asian. I forged a bond with these stories and Southeast Asian culture becomes something I’m familiar with. Southeast Asia is a diverse and complex society. I’ve been discovering unity in diversity. In most of Southeast Asia, countrymen had to learn two languages or more just to communicate with each other. It’s also pretty amazing to me how, even though we have our fair share of violence and authoritative attacks, we remain tolerable and calm with each other.
I also learnt that I don’t have to wait for the ASEAN Summit to see “fostered ties” between our Ministers and diplomats with their symbolic handshakes and smiles to showcase our friendly ties. There’s more genuity reading the writings of our youths here.
The year 2011 has proved to be a year of awakening, personally, for me, and possibly for the whole region. Where there’s almost 65% of the population in Southeast Asia who are youths, dynamics are shifting. It probably won’t be asking too much if I say I want to see more youths in Southeast Asia understand how important they are in making something happen. SEA Youth Say So was one of those things where if we work together, we can achieve something as well. I look forward to reading and hearing more stories from the youth for 2012.
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Hopefully, there is something different in store for Southeast Asia in 2012.
HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM SEA YOUTH SAY SO!