Cut off from much of the world by a repressive junta for nearly 50 years, Burma is recently making its way towards democratic change. Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi won a seat in parliament in April 2012 after a historic by-election that was meant to test Burma’s reform credentials. Since her release from house arrest in November 2010, Suu Kyi has made engagement with Burma’s youth a priority and has spoken of her intentions to bring herself up to date with youth fads.
For years, young people were conditioned to view politics as a dangerous word, holding onto the memory of the infamous 1988 uprising, when hundreds of thousands took to the streets to protest economic mismanagement and government oppression. While politics remains a potentially dangerous venture in Burma, youngsters now have a different mindset. During the by-election campaign, numbers of young people have come out in support of their Lady. Hundreds across the country joined the National League for Democracy (NLD) and devoted themselves to bringing victory to their leader’s party. Every single one of them felt concerned and proud to participate in what they called the « democratic wave ».
Burma has a significant amount of activist organisations located in and outside the country. Generation Wave is one of them. Founded after the 2007 Saffron Revolution, « GW » is a group of young Burmese dedicated to overthrowing the military government. Its members belong to a generation of urban kids that find ways to express themselves through hip hop music and Internet. For years they operated illegally, taking great risks. Soon after the release of political prisoners early 2012 followed by encouraging political reforms, Generation Wave settled back in Burma in February 2012 and has worked openly in Yangon since.
The elections deciding Burma’s political future will take place in 2015, when 75% of the parliament will be contested. The country’s youth has a significant role to play in Suu Kyi winning the presidential elections. But it remains to be seen whether the government – and Burma’s military – will allow the NLD to win election and cede its power.