By Peera Songkunnatham
“I have to become a politician,” said Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, a university student well-known in Thailand for his outspoken criticism of Thai schooling. “Even though I’ve given multiple interviews saying that I didn’t want to become a politician at all; I actually hated politicians. But I’ve changed my mind.”
Running against the current of political apathy and disillusionment among youth, Chotiphatphaisal is part of a new wave of youth in Asia considering running for public office to effect change. These young people articulate a willingness to engage in formal politics, but also a need to reform the political system from within.
But first they must overcome the many social and legal barriers in their countries, restrictions on participation that are often rooted in age, gender, and ethnic discrimination.