Solidarity Organizational Health Cultures of Respect 45May 20, 2024

45. South-East Asia: When does a hashtag become a movement?

Hosted by Akwe Amosu
Produced by Peter Coccoma

Back in 2020, the hashtag – #MilkTeaAlliance – began appearing across the Internet. Netizens in Hong Kong and Taiwan, Thailand, Japan and the Philippines seemed to be building a cross-regional solidarity movement to support pro-democracy activists, like the young people defying the generals who launched Myanmar’s coup in 2021. Even though the hashtag was so visible online, it was hard to find an actual movement in the real world. Did it really exist? How did it come about and who did it represent? And with the more recent apparent waning of the hashtag’s use, has its moment passed? We put those questions to Marc Batac, co-founder and facilitator of the Milk Tea Alliance (Friends of Myanmar).  

00:00 / 00:00

Listen and subscribe to our podcast from your mobile device on Apple, Breaker, Google, Radio Public, Spotify, and Stitcher.

The Interview

‘We are all looking for each other’

“The Milk Tea Alliance is a zeitgeist,” says Marc Batac. “At a moment in history when our governments and societies were looking inwards, the protest movements and young people were looking for each other. It meant something.” 


The Coda

The human rights leader with a side-gig in films

Sevan Doraisamy started writing film scripts when he was still a student and despite a career path that took him into over two decades of social justice activism and leadership, he never stopped. He explains why it’s important to him and how it helps him to avoid burn-out.


Music featured in the Coda:

Gemadah by Lagu-lagu Gambus from the Traditional Malay Music Festival 2022


Akwe Amosu: Hello and welcome to Strength and Solidarity, I’m Akwe Amosu, here with episode 45 of our podcast about the tools, tactics and strategies being used to defend human rights.  And this time –  

  • We’re in Southeast Asia – When does a hashtag become a movement?  
  • and in the Coda: the change that’s as good as a rest for a human rights leader in Malaysia 

Back in 2020, an online row blew up in East and Southeast Asia. Thailand actor, Bright Vachirawit, known for his roles in a genre of TV built around Boys Love, one day in a social media post referred to Hong Kong as a country. That upset some mainland Chinese netizens who began trolling him. Vachirawit’s Thai fans began throwing their own online insults back. So what, you might think – just another day in the overwrought world of the interwebs. But then something odd happened. The row morphed from being a pop culture spat into a serious political confrontation, as young people across the region jumped in on the Thai side, seeing an opportunity to land a punch against Chinese Communist Party authoritarianism. Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and others in Thailand, Japan and the Philippines piled on, and suddenly a hashtag – #MilkTeaAlliance – seemed to be everywhere, rapidly coming to denote a cross-regional solidarity movement. It became particularly prominent in 2021 as people mobilized to support young activists in Myanmar who were resisting the Generals’ coup. Yet four years after its emergence, references to the network have ebbed away – and I have been wondering about it.  Is it still active, having a real-world impact? Or was the Milk Tea Alliance largely ephemeral? What happened to its supporters- are they still active somewhere and if so – on what? I got my chance for some answers a few months ago when I met Marc Batac, a peace and security researcher in his professional life, and co-founder and facilitator of the backstage of the Milk Tea Alliance (Friends of Myanmar). 

AA: Welcome, Marc. 

Marc Batac: Hi Akwe. 

AA: I’m very glad to be able to speak to you because I’ve been seeing references to the Milk Tea Alliance over a long period. I’ve read that the roots of the Milk Tea Alliance go back to a community of online fans in South-east Asia, is that right?  

MB: Yeah. it wasn’t an organized fandom, they were just fans generally in social media; but at the same time, a section of Taiwanese and Hong Kong Generation Z and then millennials who were already politicized and in many cases, knowledgeable of common issues that they face, such as, you know, the role of China and the Chinese Communist Party and our authoritarian governments taking a page from the CCP. So yeah, generally that was the, the landscape that was already in place. The term Milk Tea Alliance, it’s also very pop culture specific and generational, and also uniquely Asian that milk tea, bubble tea – a lot of young people resonated with, you know, different kinds of milk tea all around the region. So that was again, a wish perhaps for a pan-Asian identity among young people. 

AA: Well, that’s just what I was going to ask you. Is that a sign that people can feel a connection that is important? And why? 

MB: Yeah, I think so. Because remember, the Milk Tea Alliance was born in April of 2020, right at the start of the pandemic. But the other thing is, it’s a zeitgeist, it’s a moment in history, when our governments and our societies were looking inwards, the protest movements and young people were looking for each other. So, it meant something 

AA: So, if I just take a particular case, like the Hong Kong democracy movement, is what happened that people around the Southeast Asian region and into the wider Asian region, are seeing what’s happening in Hong Kong, they’re excited about it, they’re interested in the outcome, and they start talking to each other online and sharing impressions, sharing hopes, and then that itself becomes the network? 

MB: The history of the Milk Tea Alliance is rooted to a lot of informal links and friendships already built from several years. There’s a lot of experiments, some things that failed, you know. Experiments or networking among young activists, protest activists, years back, especially during the time of the umbrella revolution and the following revolutions all around Southeast Asia and East Asia. But I think those connections that were built through those years became the foundation of the relationships, trust, and, collective, political consciousness, that allowed organizers to tap into and be in a position to optimize the symbolic power of the Milk Tea Alliance. Because a hashtag will only be a hashtag without intentionality of organizers. So, a question for us back then was, will we adopt? We were using the hashtags – but turn it into, you know, a more concrete movement.  But I think that is the beauty of the hashtag, nobody can fully represent the Alliance in a movement, but that also means that anyone who resonates and lives to the principles of that hashtag can represent the Milk Tea Alliance. And basically, that was eventually the answer that we had. We will just have to use that because that is also referring to us, a lot of organizers on the ground you know that have tried to link up and made friendships. So, Joshua Wong, Nathan Law you know, and there are a few of us, friends from the Sunflower movement in Taiwan, the SEALDS, national security reform in Japan. In the Philippines, there was the Block Marcos movement. And so, 2014, 2013, up until, you know, 2016, 2017 – there’s already a lot of exchanges. Some of them were direct, informal. We messaged each other in Twitter or in Facebook, and then we made connections. Some of us were attending youth events, and then we met each other. So, some others are hosted by organizations, NGOs that have an agenda for us to create a network. But we were also pushing back because we don’t want our elders <laugh> to just determine the, you know, so that’s why, there’s a lot of reasons why it didn’t come to a fruition, but even if it did not lead to that, there were already building of trust. There’s already exchanges of gender analysis. There’s already friendships that were happening already through those years that allowed for the Milk Tea Alliance to not just to be just a hashtag, but there is a living community of activists behind it or that it represents. 

AA: So, when does that happen that you become the facilitator, that there’s a decision to create that infrastructure to underpin the hashtag? 

MB: So, it was in the first week of the attempted coup in Myanmar in February 2021. I had built a lot of friendships already with Myanmar friends, this already organized group that before the coup, were already positioning themselves and preparing to build their own political party because of their grievances with the older generations, the Generation 88, the National League for Democracy. And then when the coup happened they, of course, have to reorganize themselves back to a resistance, movement or a group. And they knew that there is a place for solidarity and so it was during that first week that Myanmar friends reached out to me, and their ask was, “Marc, we want to meet the Milk Tea Alliance.” And of course, my reaction was: “I think that’s impossible, because there’s no one Milk tea… 

AA: It’s a hashtag!  

MB:  …it’s a hashtag! There’s no one Milk Tea Alliance. But I have an alternative proposition, which is, why don’t we create a meeting point, because I know that you are not the only one, and I am not the only one looking for the Milk Tea Alliance. We are all looking for each other.” Um, and so, from that  proposition, we called up some of our friends, you know, organizers, already friends that we have. And we had our first Monday evening call, days after the attempted coup, just listening, because we also do not know what are the asks. When I was calling friends, I was telling them, I don’t know where we are going, but we should also provide a space for our Myanmar friends because, this is a continually changing scenario but the most important thing is we show up, let them know that we are there and we are listening and in that conversation, find out where we are needed. And yeah, it’s been more than two years, almost three years that that Monday evening check-in has continued, from the seven of us who were in that first call, me being the only non-Myanmar, to now being a 120, 130 activists with our own networks. Some of us are artists, NGO workers, protest leaders in our respective countries. 

AA: And in, in how many countries? 

MB: So, the membership – again, it’s it’s an informal collective – but the people in the group spans from Japan, Mongolia, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong – almost everywhere in South-east Asia. And folks in India, to Iran and diaspora groups, primarily Myanmar diaspora groups, in Europe and in Australia and some allied student unions as well, from these countries, from Canada, from Europe, from UK, yeah, from the USA. So yeah, that is the expanse of that, because the Milk Tea Alliance is a broader movement. It’s even among Asian diaspora that are already based outside of Asia. 

AA: So, all those people who are on those calls on the Monday evenings, they’re plugged into other organizing networks in their countries or in their thematic interests, in their areas of work. So is the sense that you have that these calls, these conversations, are in some way feeding into that wider set of networks? 

MB: That is the theory. And I think too that is also the ask and the need um, that’s why it’s continued. Many times I wonder why people keep on showing up. It’s all, it’s exhausting you know, but the movement has demonstrated its endurance, at least this pocket of, you know, of the movement. And so I would differentiate between, you know, that there’s a front stage of the Milk Tea Alliance. You have the Twitter accounts, and Facebook accounts that mushroomed in in the first weeks of the attempted coup in Myanmar. So there’s Milk Tea Alliance Indonesia, Malaysia, and there will be offline collectives around this. But also they would do protest actions, produce their own, merchandise, and they would link up with established NGOs and human rights collectives to protest in front of embassies. Um, but that is the, so that’s the front stage, or many front stages, but 

AA: So, behind that, behind the scenes, is your Monday evening calls?  

MB: Yes. So of course, at the start for sure, there were other attempts to build multiple backstage, but this particular backstage remains the most active. I do not know right now anything else that has remained. And partly it’s because some of us there have already known each other for the longest time. We’ve designed the space that yes, we will discuss sharing of tactics and information and updates across not just Myanmar, but Southeast Asia, but we will try to mix some things in, you know, dance parties, watching documentaries and all of that. It’s tough to sustain all of this but we, we try our best not to mimic the usual NGO professional spaces, the Milk Tea Alliance is that cultural core. The reason why it was able to tap into the hearts of a lot of younger generation was because they identified, you know, certain pop culture references in here. So, we have to make space as well for inter-personal relationships. During the pandemic, we would play computer games together because, again, that was the space that we have. So, we will mix it up. Sometimes we will laugh, joke with each other, and a lot of times as well, we would provide space for a lot of vulnerability. There would be crying together. And I think that is the other thing, you know, that differentiates this current form of organizing – care for a lot of young people, confronting vulnerability, naming vulnerability, naming privilege and the challenges and doubts among us, it’s not something that people think is a source of weakness; in fact that people are courageous and bold, you know – this is a source for us for, for strength.     

AA: So clearly, a very rich and varied range of relationships across this multinational community. You talked about it being a place for exchange of information; is it also a source for proactive organizing? Is it a place where decisions are getting made on those Monday evenings, about coordinated action in multiple different places or responses to a particular event, an arrest or an assault or, uh, whatever? 

MB: Yeah, there are quite concrete things that we decide together. Of course, the most basic one are, crafting collective and joint statements. It’s not geared towards simply, you know, changing opinion of policy actors. For us, joint statements are important to know where is our consensus as a group. So, it’s important for us to constantly do that and refocus, that those statements are not simply, you know, something that we submit, we have to constantly debate and discuss that.  

AA: Why? Because it’s really important to be able to know what you collectively think about an issue? 

MB: Yes. Because the Milk Tea Alliance is the hashtag, and the principles around it are, you know, democracy, anti-authoritarianism. These are big things. But because of our different histories, there are different meanings to those words. For example, East Asia, Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia have different experience when it comes to colonization and liberal democracy. So, we have to, you know, even if not directly confront it, we have to make space that we have intentionally, even if slowly, have to interrogate some of those concepts. And our way to do it is, you know, through case to case issues. What is our positioning on certain things, on Myanmar, on Thailand?  And sometimes we would have disagreements with established NGOs, and we would stand our ground – that, you know, this is where our position is, at least, this pocket of the Alliance. But going back to your question as well, yes, we will coordinate on certain dates. For example, if there are events around the ASEAN, then we would ask the room if we could coordinate action. So, there will be the Milk Tea Alliance in Indonesia that will do that, but there will be support mobilizations in front of embassies in other countries. But there’s also very specific mutual aid that is happening, sending of top-ups from Thailand to Myanmar, or finding safe houses… 

AA: Does that mean top-ups for, for sim cards?  

MB: Yes, in the first month specifically of the attempted coup, there were internet shutdowns inside Myanmar. And it’s important for Myanmar friends to keep us updated on what’s happening, what are the atrocities that are happening. And so, what we have to do is, some of them already have sim cards, or we will send sim cards, and then what we would also do is mobilize Thai friends to send top-ups to certain numbers that’s already there. So that’s one form of mutual aid. Sometimes, it’s also looking for safe houses. Some Myanmar friends would just show up suddenly at the middle of the night or early in the morning in bus stops, and they need a place to stay. And if we are able to find organizations to house them, it’s good but many times as well it’s just us as friends who would, you know, host them for a few days until we find more long-term support for them. 

AA: Do you think that beyond your planning group, which is I suppose what the Monday evening group is, um, at one level, do you think there are people waiting to see what you say? Have you got a crowd of not so well engaged or actively organized people, young people out there waiting to see what that statement from Milk Tea Alliance says on the Thai election or the latest event in Myanmar, and then responding, joining your actions? 

MB: This is a discussion as well of where the power is of the Milk Tea Alliance and in the phases of power. So, there’s decision-making power and the agenda-setting power. For us, the power of the Milk Tea Alliance in many movements is in the ideology and value-setting, which means, yes, definitely we knew that our audience is waiting for a setting of the tone, but also pushing reimagination of what is possible as well. So sometimes it’s a simple hashtag, #UselessASEAN!  You know, we just have to name it, everyone knows already, but because of politeness or whatnot, then people will not use it. But when the Milk Tea Alliance collectively says yeah, it’s #UselessASEAN, even our seniors and even our contacts in the ASEAN know that, you know, the ASEAN is not able to respond, and sometimes they contribute to allowing these atrocities.  So, it has to be said, it might not be apparent, you know, right now what that would lead. But we just have to say that there’s something fundamentally wrong with the current system, with the current set of the UN and the ASEAN and the markets. It’s a question that we always problematize. It always comes up in the Monday check-in. So that’s why I think young people constantly show up, because that’s something that it’s difficult to individually confront. It’s something that the new generation of activists have to collectively ask together, even if the answers are not apparent, but say that, yes, there’s something fundamentally wrong and in a conversation, how can we reimagine what kind of relationship across our peoples and nations could possibly be, outside what is not working, which is, you know, is ASEAN,UN etcetera. 

AA: I mean, I think somebody listening to this will be trying to understand what level of formality the entity has. And I think you have described this as a distributed network or a distributed organization. As opposed to what? Can you give us a sense of how you define the Alliance in organizational terms? 

MB: Yeah, so the Milk Tea Alliance is the same as a lot of social movements, it’s what I call a distributed movement, which means that there are multiple independently governed collectives deciding their own strategies, they might have relationships to some, but not everyone is linked and might not be knowledgeable of the entire thing. And it has something to do as well with the space. Social media is – it’s, you know, quite difficult, especially across platforms, it’s difficult to identify who’s in the room. This is different from, for example, a centralized movement where there is a core decision making, there’s multiple members and then there’s a core, where there’s a platform of decision making; or another type of organization is a decentralized one still connected to a, a center, but the center is not deciding, but there is, you know, information sharing in the center and everyone knows each other. Milk Tea Alliance, however – we don’t know where are the other pockets. And some of the collectives will die down, will transform into something else. So, it’s not our intention to make all of the nodes active, um, coordinated. In our strategy, what we want to strengthen is our node and see what is our relationship and link to other nodes. And that is our way to strengthen the web. Should we move from a distributed movement towards a more, perhaps decentralized one?  Because, you know, it’s a distributed movement, doesn’t mean that it’s entirely democratic; sometimes because it’s distributed, certain invisible hierarchies happen there. So right now that is some of the transition that we are, confronting within the backstage –   

AA: Trying to think about whether to evolve into an organization, albeit one that’s decentralized.  

MB: Yes.  

AA: So, in fact, I was going to ask you, so do you see a distributed movement as a, a temporary transitional place, or do you think such a multi-nodal network can just continue and sort of morph and flow according to the need and be stable effectively over the long term? 

MB: I think it’s a question of when, and also your positionality, the position of your node within the ecosystem. So, it doesn’t mean that, you know, the backstage is shifting from a distributed movement to a more decentralized one where, you know, at least there is clarity on accountability. Does not mean that the entire Milk Tea Alliance have to be that. But it’s just perhaps important for us, at least in our collective, through consent and, you know, further discussion that clarifying certain accountabilities have to be there because sometimes, you know, it’s command over the language, those who are men will sometimes have more control over decision making. And so, we have to be worried about that because otherwise we will not be true to what the Alliance wanted to be, what the Alliance wanted to reimagine is what kind of more horizontal, more accountable organization could look like across our movements. And this is not unique to the Milk Tea Alliance, this is the Arab Spring, the Occupy Wall Street, you know, some of the tools that we are borrowing constantly from these movements, you know, this is prefigurative politics. We are trying to apply some of our vision of what the society could be to how we want to organize ourselves. 

AA: I mean, I think the reason it’s interesting to ask about, for want of a better word, formalization, is because as much as we can see that these powerful, inspiring youth movements that have surfaced all over the world are an innovation and a revelation, in fact, to older generations who’ve struggled to figure out how to inspire and sustain political networks, solidarity networks, there’s this piece that is confusing, which is that in moments where discipline or a shared decision or a single action or a coordinated action is required, it seems to kind of come apart because of the lack of a container. And, you know, it could be that that is inevitable or a price that has to be paid for the rest of the good that these networks produce. Or it could be that there’s another step of innovation to be made that somehow keeps the genius of these movements, but allows them without, you know, heavy duty hierarchy or bureaucracy to become more powerful when they’re under pressure. And so that’s really why I wanted to pursue it, to understand what your guess is about that vision or that goal.  

MB: My hypothesis is we don’t have to choose between different kinds of organization or, you know, formality, because I think they have different strengths and in different phases they have their role.   It’s very difficult for formal organizations to be the movement. Because, you know, it requires agility, because we have to admit at some point when we institutionalize, there would be constrictions to, some of our imagination, and our calls, which does not resonate with the public. So that is, I think, why these movements that you know, have very general but very radical calls come in, but it’s now up to the more formal organizations, I think, to translate the heart of these demands, translate to more specific policy demands, more targeted demands, or having that partnership with movements.  But also as a student, and part of a lot of social movements is not measuring our social movements on NGO criteria. Social movements come and go. There are ebbs and flows, the vision and the demands  and aspirations would remain in the ebbs just waiting for that key moment in history it will be translated again. I like the metaphor of the wave because that is how I see movements. It’s not about the ups and downs of social movements that we say that it’s successful or not. It’s about if we are slowly moving, you know, closer, progressing closer, because I think the ebbs are not less important than the flows. So for me, admittedly, and we have to be very clear, the Milk Tea Alliance right now is in an ebb compared to two years ago and also the same with the civil disobedience movement in Myanmar. But that doesn’t mean that Milk Tea Alliance is gone. It doesn’t mean that the work has to stop. It’s determining what we could do during the ebb so that we are more prepared to take on the opportunity when the flow happens. And during the ebb, such as right now, it’s important for us to build trust, you know, constantly debate on positions, network and build relationships, because when the flow happens, it’s high pressure. When we now debate on tactics and all, if we have not invested on those relationships, then it’s easy to fragment and not be able to be prepared and take the moments of flow. 

AA: And if somebody said to you, “this sounds really important, this is building a deep resource for progressive causes and for defending rights and democracy in the region, but who is responsible for the more concrete organized strategy that sort of sets out the goal and delivers it?” What would you say? You said movements don’t have to carry everything. Where would you look for the other piece that is more disciplined and more channeled and targeted?  

MB: The other thing which linked to your question is, the Milk Tea Alliance is trans-local, it’s linking local struggles. For us, the Milk Tea Alliance is supporting a lot of creativity, and action remains in the local. And so a lot of energy happens in the local, it’s the local protest collectives together with their allied ecosystem of NGOs that, you know, will determine what fits with the current juncture of, for example, Thailand. And this applies to what we’ve been discussing about um solidarity. So, in the case of the Milk Tea Alliance, at least the backstage, I mean, Audre Lorde I think said we constantly ask about new ideas and that there’s no new ideas, they’re just permutation of old ideas, it’s just a new way of making ideas felt. And that is, how I see our task, as you know, the ones in the Milk Tea Alliance. I am also active in the Philippines, but standing solidarity with those in Myanmar, in Thailand – how do I make them feel, you know, that they are supported? How do we make old ideas, you know, inspire them so that they could adapt that to the current, you know, phase? So, the task would remain to be with the local organizers and and activists. Um, and that is something that we’ve clarified with our Myanmar friends in the first week, you know, we said we will only be able to facilitate, but the steering of the Milk Tea Alliance vis-a-vis Myanmar will come from you, our Myanmar friends. We cannot possibly guess where you want to go, and it will change depending on the phase. You’re the best who could know because ultimately they’re also the ones who will take responsibility of the consequences. So that was quite clear from the very beginning when we set up the backstage of the Milk Tea Alliance, how we relate with our local friends. 

AA: Thank you. Marc,  

MB: I just, thank you as well. I mean, thank you for just showing up for all of us. Sometimes we also do not know actually as social movements and activist protest activists. We only know that we do not want the set of possibilities that is being forced to us. But I think that’s what activism is. It’s daring that, you know, that that we might not know yet, but we have the energy and endurance to figure it out, and it’s the support that you all show for us and you betting on us and the wisdom that you share with us and the accompaniment that you share with us, that it’s okay to err because that’s in erring that we learn and we progress. 

AA: Wonderful. Thank you.  

AA: Marc Batac coordinates the online network – or distributed movement – Milk Tea Alliance (Friends of Myanmar) and co-leads an initiative that seeks to challenge security sector overreach. Since we recorded this interview, the military Junta in Myanmar has imposed forced conscription on both men and women. The Milk Tea Alliance Friends of Myanmar is actively supporting those organising defection from the military, as well as the Blood Money campaign for targeted sanctions to block the junta’s fuel imports. You can find a transcript of our conversation and some background reading on our website, 

AA: Our coda this time comes from Sevan Doraisamy, executive director of the human rights organization Suaram in Malaysia. He wanted to tell us about his unusual – and creative – approach to recharging his batteries. 

Sevan Doraisamy: I’m an activist. I’ve been in these activist circle for past 25 years, but at the same time, I also develop another passion, writing script for TV programs, and also film. I started this when I was in university, but the interest towards film developed since my early age. 

SD: I grew up in a rubber plantation. The accommodation for the workers of the plantation is deep inside. So you have a small village, kind of a setup in the plantations surrounded by rubber trees and palm oil trees. Every month they will put an open-air movie for the estate workers to have the access to watch their favorite movie. They can’t afford to go out and watch movies in theaters in those days. So, every month we will be looking forward to watch this movie on the big screen and an open air. And my father used to work, uh, one of the projectionists, for the movie. So, he always come back and share with me the movies since I was four years old. So somehow it’s embedded in my subconscious mind.  

SD: During the university I was exposed to student activism. So I thought I wanted to use my script writing skill to talk about social justice. So at that time, we were supporting a worker’s group  demanding for minimum wage. So we did a drama on minimum wage and staged it in universities and also in some other places. After my studies I still continue to work on these scripts, at the same time, activism became part of my life. 

SD: You know activism – there’s ups and down. To bring about changes, you have to work hard. You have to do protests, lobbying. You have to meet many peoples, organize events and all that. Even after hard work, two, three years, you still find nothing much is moving or the government still adamant with their not-so-democratic policies and issues related to human rights and all this. But somehow what kept me going, and I’m passing my 25 years in the activism is when I write and I work in movies, it gives some break away from the day-to-day commotion, I would say. And it’s also sometimes you find your brain switched immediately when you are committed in a, in a certain production. And my office is very flexible with that because they know whenever I say, “OK, I’m taking a one week off to get involved in this production, or in the movie,” they say, fine, go. So that’s why I find the balance whenever I come back, I feel very much refreshed. My team knows this, and I also give the same flexibility to my other colleagues as well. Some of them are also into singing and all that. So, I’m giving the same flexibility to them as well. I think this is a process where it’s important for their mental health as well. And whenever you do things that you really like, uh, I’m not saying the activism, the human rights work is also not passionate. It is a passionate, but sometimes you need to strike a balance. 

SD: One of my recent experiences, which I find it very interesting because after 25 years of activism, I’m kind of one of the lead character in Malaysia human rights scene. And then, I took a month off and I had this opportunity – work with a film production from India, So I just left everything behind, and I wrote to my board, they said, go ahead. So, I took one month off and went and worked as a crew in this production. I am leading my own organization and here you switch totally and become a crew, which means you’re kind of like a very lower level of a worker in the production crew. I know this but sometimes I will be thinking, “Why you have to leave everything and come and get scolded or get, you have to running there and here, you know, sometimes people ask you to take this, pick that, and, and, and, and, uh, so many other odd jobs you have to do, like being a runner sometimes, uh, helping the crew to carry things and all that. But I do enjoy that situation, I do enjoy that process as well. So, after go back, I thought, okay, I’m going to do this more, at least once a year, uh, to take a week or two or a month and then commit myself doing this. It gives a lot of energy to me and also refresh myself. 

AA: Sevan Doraisamy leads the human rights organization, Suara Rakyat Malaysia, better known by its abbreviation, Suaram  

AA: That brings Episode 45 to a close… Thanks for listening.  And as always, if you enjoy Strength and Solidarity – please give us a rating and tell potentially interested people about us. And of course, your comments about anything you hear on the podcast, or something you want to hear – we’re open to them all. Just drop us a line at…. For now, though, from producer Peter Coccoma and me, Akwe Amosu, take care.