Nov 13, 07
The weekend rally in Kuala Lumpur brought some 40,000 Malaysians together to press for electoral reforms.
On the same day, similar protests, drawing smaller groups of people, were held in London, Seoul, Manila, Jakarta, Bangkok and Delhi. The protests were coordinated and attended by both citizens and non-Malaysians.
As for the rally in Kuala Lumpur, which made international news, it was organised by the opposition-backed Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih).
In Bangkok, seven people armed with a large yellow placard and yellow flowers had gathered outside the Malaysian embassy.
The protest was organised on a short notice by Indonesian national Ichal Supriadi, who is a coordinator with a non-governmental organisation for free elections.
When contacted, Ichal said most of those who attended the protest were Thais.
“The international community has been waiting so long for this. We have (watched) for many years the scenario during Malaysian elections. It is the same (as) during the Suharto era in Indonesia.
“We encourage Malaysian activists to fight for electoral reform. They have to be more active and progressive to press for change,” he said.
However, the protestors in Bangkok chose not to wear yellow, the official colour of the protest, as it is also the colour which symbolises the Thai royalty.
Ichal said they had notified the Malaysian embassy two days ahead of the protest regarding their intention to submit two letters and a petition in support of the call for electoral reforms.
Despite this, he said no embassy staff were present to receive the documents and they were handed over to a security guard instead.
The petition contained the signatures of 35 people, including Thais and other nationals. The protestors also submitted a memorandum similar to the one handed over by Bersih leaders to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
Ichal also offered some advice to Malaysian activists fighting for clean and fair elections.
“The best way is for civil society groups to take charge (of the protests) without the involvement of political parties, but we understand that this is just the beginning for Malaysia,” he said.
‘Shocked and disgusted’
In London, some 30 people gathered outside the Malaysian Students’ Department in Queensborough Terrace in London. They carried banners and sported the official yellow Bersih t-shirts.
The gathering was organised by a Malaysian student who wished to be only known by his middle name, Hiro.
The group, comprising mainly Malaysian students, had expressed their full support for the demands made in the Bersih memorandum.
The protestors also chanted slogans like ‘Hidup Rakyat’ (long live the people), ‘Daulat Tuanku’ (long live the King) and ‘SPR (Election Commission) reform now’.
According to Hiro, the students were following the updates on the Kuala Lumpur rally via the reports on Malaysiakini and Al Jazeera.
“We were disgusted and shocked at what we saw,” said the student, in reference to the police’s actions.
“This (the protest) is not only for our generation but also for our children,” he added.
Hiro said the protest, which was held after obtaining permission from the London police, coincided with another event held at the same venue which saw the presence of several Umno members.
Bersih-inspired protests held in other countries