April 21, Asia Meetup

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Asia Meetups

Date: Wednesday, April 21st

Time: Delhi 13:30 (UTC+5:30) / Taipei-Kuala Lumpur 16:00 (UTC+8) / Tokyo 17:00 (UTC+9) / NYC 4am (EST)

Who: Facilitated by Don, Lulu, Kaia, Nica

Where: The Meetjitsi link will be shared in the following rooms on the IFF Mattermost one or two hours before the start of the meeting: Southeast Asia, Central Asia and East Asia.

Agenda: We are going to talk about #MilkTeaAlliance (MTA) this time!! MTA is a pro-democracy movement initiated by netizen and people in many Asia countries in order to support each other. Why MilkTea? So many countries in Asia have the milk tea culture, we drink a lot daily!! Each country has their own style in making milk tea!


Topic: #MilkTeaAlliance (MTA)

Experiences of Philipines‘ MTA

  • Who is the Milk Tea Alliance? Is a diverse group. If you are in solidarity against oppression in South Asia, you are part of the MTA
  • We call it a space, not an organization, because everybody can join. We encourage others to set up their own spaces.
  • Space itself is an achievement and allow people to learn from each other, support each other.
  • Since there is no leader of MTA, it is hard to tell what to do. However, it is valuable to share information, empower participants, maintain conversation and allow people to have more confident to act.
  • We do more moral support, because even when international support is important, the main work is local.
  • We talk about:
    • how do we deal with conflicts
    • how do we engage elders
    • what to do when there is no connectivity
  • We share our experience with Myanmar friends, and also some resources
  • We don't tell Myanmar friends what to do, we share our experience for them to decide
  • We have not done any baseline of digital security knowledge/capacity, also a systematized check on our backgrounds. So any help on this will be appreciated. The HK friend of the space is most advanced/knowledgeable in security.

Experiences from MTA Malaysia (twitter account - @MYmilkteh ):

  • MTA as “a new kind of pan-Asian solidarity that opposes all forms of authoritarianism!” , Malaysia has had time to ruminate on the evolution of the Milk Tea Alliance in Southeast Asia.
  • We are conscious that because of the intangible, digital, and extremely millennial emergence of the Milk Tea Alliance, unlike many other movements, has its birthplace in the digital space, without a specific leader – and oftentimes this has been seen as a point of failure for movements, but this time we thought this was opportunity.
  • There is no founder of the Milk Tea Alliance in Malaysia, because we have seen different activists doing different types of work here and also abroad under the broad banner, so instead our group of friends are trying a new form of activism, we define our belonging under the banner of Milk Tea Alliance, something that resonates amongst Malaysians, aspects of activism that is enriched by the lens of the Milk Tea Alliance, and we aim to work in a manner that is driven by progressive politics, anonymity, providing support to anyone and everyone, no matter where they are from.
  • There are criticisms about not having a leader. We privilege security and anonimity over leadership
  • You don't even need to be Malaysian, you can also be a refugee or somebody on the diaspora. refugees, queer groups, etc. Citizenship is a problematic issue in Malaysia.
  • At this point, we have to be realistic, everyone that has been part of our network are activists with day jobs, so we need to be strategic with our existing resources, and yet impactful, so we look for low hanging fruit and synergies of strengths: e.g. expanding our network of human rights defenders across the MTA, looking for opportunities to collaborate, we organized a demonstration in front of the Myanmar embassy and supported Myanmar refugees in the handover, and providing security on 31 March, we co-wrote the memorandum with Kachin refugee communities, and it was endorsed by more than 50 organizations in Malaysia, including indigenous groups, queer groups, and Myanmar ethnic minority groups. But we see ourselves as a dynamic collective.
  • We were worried about it being only performative, but then we saw a need to express solidarity
  • How to act? We have been relying on social media, connecting with HRDs digitally, personally, and we have managed to build a sense of trust amongst HRDs in other MTA Countries. We have been able to achieve an information flow and an understanding of other countries’ contexts, policies, legislative impunity very quickly because we have been able to hold one another accountable, however we are also aware because of our anonymity, we may lack credibility and may not be subjected to accountability, the same way “regular” activists are.
  • Provide support for human rights defenders in Myanmar
  • How can we add value to the Malaysian space? What can we do about Myanmar coup? there is a big Myanmar population in Malaysia.
  • Problem similar to Myanmar: no laws about protecting minorities, but lots of laws to protect institutions
  • We decided to start our specific efforts under the MTA Banner to address the current context of activism in Malaysia: digital spaces have become extremely hostile for Rohingya refugees, women HRDs, queer HRDs, and people have become vulnerable to doxxing with no recourse, the discourse has become specifically Malaysian-centric with no critical approach to the underlying problems of our legal system governing digital spaces, e.g. sedition laws and communication laws protecting the 3 Rs: race, religion, royalty, with no protection for minorities. We thought that the MTA will be an interesting take on activism, at the same time promote critical perspectives on human rights, the nation-state, imperialism in all forms, and unjust immigration laws. Because of this cosmopolitan, critical perspective, we hope that we are able to build a 21st century, compassionate form of international solidarity to people all over the world, but from the bottom-up, with real human connections and human experiences that shape resistance, not hollowed out ideals from the early 20th centuries.
  • Frontline defenders helped us with security issues, big support from them.
  • We are victims of very sophisticated cyberwarfare
  • Document internet blackouts
  • Develop a better way for activism on this circumstances
  • The MTA is an essential part of futurisms: building digital, physical spaces you want to live in and thrive, for the next decade, and imagining a country/cosmopolitan world that is inclusive for all. The Myanmar resistance, it is extremely digital, amongst other things, its parallel , legitimate government prior to the National unity government, the CRPH has been verified by twitter and hosting digital meetings, while the Military linked governments have been banned by Twitter and Facebook.
  • Many of these young people in MTA Countries are seeking meaningful connection, sources of work to show that their resistance is not in vain, and the digital space provides them some semblance of comfort, so we need to be thinking about how best to work in these spaces, providing them security.
  • The future of the MTA is a deeper understanding because there are less barriers when we are communicating under this banner, we approach one another with a deep intent to empathize, to understand the deeply entrenched impunity, and to seek bottom-up solutions to regional problems, very much looking to upgrade, or do away with mechanisms like ASEAN, and NAM that do not center a human being first.
  • The international approach to the challenges of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Philippines, and Myanmar has often been clinical, and distant, we are aiming to strike a new balance for the digital age.


  • More general checklists for activism needed
  • People does not feel comfortable asking/answering questions about digital security because of their own safety, but if there are resources to read, they look at them.
  • What IFF can do?
    • Because of the digital roots and nature of MTA, the IFF can play an important role in creating opportunities for networking, and meetings with MTAs, to better understand that many MTAs in hotspot countries, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, are in the line of fire of some of the most sophisticated cybertroopers, psychological warfare, and may be able to provide tools and solutions to us.
    • The IFF can also support us through spotting patterns, and some common ground, to strengthen the resistance, that is becoming increasingly digital, as well as methods of subverting or documenting internet blackouts.
    • Inclusivity of digital spaces
  • To do :

Generate the security "list" for MTA, especially MM friends. It should be a general one and can be loclized/contextualised to different countries.