It started last spring as a meme on social media. It is now a powerful symbol of resistance in Southeast Asia. The Milk Tea Alliance, a loose coalition against oppression by Chinese and Thai authorities, is now also active against the coup leaders in Myanmar.
“ We also rebelled in 1988, but we didnt have the Internet at that time,” says a protester in Yangon, Myanmars largest city, to DeccEit. He wants to be called “Andrew “for fear of reprisals.
United against dictatorship
“ Back then, it was difficult to reach the outside world, but now Milk Tea Alliance information about Myanmar is distributed via Twitter and Facebook. Now everyone knows what is happening here and we are all united against the dictatorship, including in China and India.”
Last Sunday, one month after the military coup in Myanmar, the movement organised demonstrations in Taiwan, Thailand, Hong Kong and Melbourne to show solidarity with the Myanmar people. On the same day, at least 18 protesters were killed by police forces in Myanmar. Again today, at least 13 people have been killed in different cities, the news agencies report.
During protest actions, the movement uses a greeting with three fingers in the air:
Online, the campaigners use the hashtag #MilkTeaAlliance. A playful name: in China, tea is mostly black, while in Thailand and Hong Kong, where the movement started, tea with milk is popular, explains our Southeast Asia correspondent Annemarie Kas.
“ Tea is a funny way to show the differences and similarities between the movements in all those countries,” says Kas. “Because they all drink tea, but in their own way. In this way, they indicate that they all have their own battles, but with the same goal.”
The 32-year-old physician Kaung Myat Oo speaks with DeccEit from Mandalay, the second city of Myanmar. “I first heard about the Milk Tea Alliance a week ago. It was known in China as a movement of opponents of the Communist Party, but I understand that they have now demonstrated in Bangkok and Hong Kong against the coup détat here. That gives us strength.”
Tips and Tricks
“ Its about more than online solidarity with memes and hashtags,” says correspondent Annemarie Kas. “The alliance has an effect: you see a cross-pollination of methods, tips and tricks that the protesters in these different countries look at each other. For example, which protective equipment is best if the police act hard during street demonstrations. And also which communication channels are the safest.”
Demonstrant Andrew confirms that the Milk Tea Alliance has helped disseminate useful information to his supporters. “Thanks to these instructions, we can better protect ourselves against tear gas and rubber bullets,” he says.
On Twitter, many accounts of the Milk Tea Alliance managed from Myanmar are now active, such as:
Traditionally, there was little solidarity between resistance movements in the various Asian countries. But thanks to the binding force of the Milk Tea Alliance, that has changed according to doctor Kaung Myat Oo.
“ I would now also demonstrate for human rights in Hong Kong. Also for democracy in Thailand. In Myanmar we used to stay silent about injustice abroad. Never that again. I also regret that I kept silent earlier about the genocide against the Rohingya and other minorities. But were never going to take that kind of injustice again.”