Youth Futures: Comparative Research and Transformative Visions

By Jennifer Gidley; Sohail Inayatullah | Go to book overview

Chapter 9
Imagining the Future:
Youth in Singapore

Alfred L. Oehlers


CONFORMITY AND DISSENT ACROSS SOUTHEAST ASIA

Following the outbreak of the financial crisis, young Thais took to the streets of Bangkok to protest the government’s mishandling of developments. Largely because of their agitation, the government subsequently fell and was replaced by an administration more closely representing their aspirations and visions for the future. Similarly, in Indonesia, young student protesters were at the forefront of the popular revolt against the Suharto presidency. Acting in concert with other sections of Indonesian society, these students eventually forced the resignation of Suharto and set their country on a new path of evolution.

These recent events in Thailand and Indonesia are extremely momentous and noteworthy in themselves. For present purposes, though, they are also highly significant in one other important regard: they clearly demonstrate that youth in Southeast Asia are an increasingly potent force, capable of instigating major social, economic, and political change. Increasingly, youth in the region are articulating independent visions of the future, very often at odds with established wisdoms. Moreover, they are fully prepared to agitate in support of these views, despite the evident risks to life and limb. An increasingly vocal, articulate, and committed force is taking shape in Southeast Asia, capable of fundamentally altering the futures of countries in the region.

The strength of such youth, of course, varies considerably from country to country, with Indonesia and Thailand perhaps representing one extreme of the spectrum. At the other end, one may identify countries such as Singapore, conspicuous by the distinct lack of any form of youth protest, organization, or movement, despite recent upheavals in the region. In sharp contrast to their brothers and sisters in neighboring countries, youth

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