A bi-monthly update on Asia-related events in the Nordic Region
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Thailand's Struggle for Democracy: Was 2020 a Turning Point?
With speakers Duncan McCargo, Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal and Gray Sergeant

In 2014 army chief Prayut Chan-o-cha launched a coup which brought himself and the Thai military to power. Five years later elections, widely seen as unfree and unfair, took place in an attempt to legitimise this rule. The junta remained in power, marking yet another setback for democracy in Thailand.This has not occurred without resistance but these efforts, to constrain the power of the military, have been suppressed. In early 2020 the Constitutional Court’s decision to ban the anti-military junta Future Forward Party was just one example of the authority’s crackdown, and it sparked a series of year-long protests.

As demonstrations grew so too did the demands of their participants. By August there even began to be calls for reform of the monarchy – a topic long considered taboo in Thailand.

Today discontent with the military and the king endures. As too does the regime’s crackdown against its critics. Many commentators regard the events of 2020 as unprecedented. The question is how will the discontent unleashed last year manifest itself in 2021. Did Thailand reach a turning point?

Time: 14:00-15:00 (GMT), 15:00-16:00 (CET), Tuesday 23 February
Please register here to receive Zoom link.
Organized by:
Henry Jackson Society

COVID19 in Asia: Diverse Effects, Responses & Prospects for Recovery

Join a panel of experts for a discussion on how various countries across Asia have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic and what the prospects for recovery might look like.

Qin Gao, Professor of Social Policy and Social Work, Director of China Center on Social Policy, Columbia University

Jayati Ghosh, Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Duncan McCargo, Director, Nordic Institute of Asian Studies and Professor of Political Science, University of Copenhagen

Registration for this event is required. Zoom link will be shared with those who register one day prior to the event.

This event is sponsored by the Economic and Political Development concentration at SIPA; Weatherhead East Asian Institute; China Center for Social Policy, Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, and Southeast Asian Student Initiative.

Event Contact Information:
Ilona Vinklerova:

Time and date: 14:00 - 15:00 (EST), 20:00 - 21:00 (CET), Wednesday 24 February 2021
Please register here.
Economic and Political Development concentration at SIPA; Weatherhead East Asian Institute; China Center for Social Policy, Southeast Asian Student Initiative and NIAS - Nordic Institute of Asian Studies.

The Perils and Promises of Democracies in Southeast Asia in the Aftermath of the Jan. 6th US Insurrection

The attack on the US Capital on January 6, 2021 on the day of the electoral college vote that would establish Joe Biden as president sent shockwaves around the world. While it was no question that the Trump presidency had for four years tested the strength of the US democratic institutions, the perilous brush with violent insurrection left many people around the world, including in Southeast Asia, questioning the strength of their own democracies against the forces of right wing populism, the rise in authoritarianism, and increasing nativism.

This panel will address the question of how the January 6th event has been understood within 5 different Southeast Asian countries with variable levels of democracy: Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Did the event serve as a warning or was it dismissed? Did it spur the advocates of democracy to fight harder or did it encourage supporters of authoritarianism to clamp down harder on protestors?

  • Lisandro Claudio, University of California, Berkeley

  • Duncan McCargo, NIAS, University of Copenhagen

  • Caroline Hughes, University of Notre Dame

  • Bridget Welsh, University of Nottingham Asia Research Institute Malaysia

  • Seinenu Thein-Lemelson, University of California, Los Angeles


  • Sophal Ear, Occidental College
Time and date: 16:00 - 17:30 (CET), Friday 26 February 2021
Please register here.
Organized by
NIAS - The Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, NYSEAN - New York Southeast Asian Network, Columbia SIPA and the Southeast Asian Student Initiative (SEASI)

Milk Tea Alliance: Transnational democratic solidarity in Asia

Online roundtable discussion

In April 2020, the Thai Boy’s love series 2gether became massively popular in China. The series’ prominence quickly brought Chinese fans’ scrutiny to the leading actors’ social media activity. This attention turned to backlash when posts referring to Hong Kong and Taiwan as independent countries by the title’s lead actor, Bright, and his girlfriend, Nnevvy, were discovered by the new fans. This perceived online impasse drew strong criticism from nationalistic Chinese citizens and became the spark of a spontaneous transnational online movement in response against China’s model of authoritarianism. Citizens from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Thailand have called this the ”Milk Tea Alliance” and united in a common struggle for democracy.

In addition to a shared stance against authoritarianism, issues such as unfair trade, the treatment of ethnic minorities, environmental degradation, and socio-economic inequalities have become widely discussed under the banner. Many of these issues were also featured in the student-led protests in Thailand in late 2020, where the ”Milk Tea Alliance” was functional in online mobilisation and as a manifestation of solidarity.

In this roundtable discussion activists, scholars, and observers from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Thailand are brought together. They will talk about their experiences and insights - answering questions about what the alliance is, why it matters, and where it is going.

Time and date: 10:00 - 12:00 (CET), Thursday 25 February 2021
Please register here.
Organized by
Centre for East- and South-East Asian Studies at Lund University.

The Olympics were to make Japan a digital front-runner: could COVID-19 do it instead?

Lecture by Karen Ejersbo Iversen - Part of the TUEC 2021 Lecture Series

For decades Japan has held the ambition of becoming an international leader in digitalization. The e-Japan strategy launched in 2001, was designed to make Japan an “IT-superpower”, and a government statement from 2014 dealt with Japan as “The World’s most advanced IT-nation 2016-2020”. Additionally, there have been numerous strategies for the digitalization of the Japanese public sector.

The 2020 Olympics were expected to showcase Japan as a digital front-runner, a Society 5.0. TheseOlympic plans can therefore be seen to parallel the 1964 Olympics, where Japan re-emerged as a modern, industrial nation and impressed the international community with its shinkansen trains, advanced architecture, etc.

The 2020 Olympics are now postponed, and Japan’s digital advancements no longer seem quite asimpressive as planned either. However, there are signs that the major and sudden changes brought on byCovid-19 have highlighted several of the actual obstacles for promoting digitalization in Japanese society. The discussion on how best to deal with them has now begun.

How come Japan has faced such difficulties in achieving its goals in the digital sphere, and why mightCovid-19 perhaps be a greater opportunity than the Olympics for making actual progress? These are theissues this presentation will attempt to clarify and address.

Time and date: 10:00 - 11:00 (CET), Thursday 25 February 2021
Please register here.
Organized by
Tokai University European Centre & Denmark-Japan Society

The cost of doing Buddhism: gendered labour in Buddhist economies of belonging in contemporary rural Japan.

Open lecture with Paulina Kolata

Although Buddhists are often portrayed as rejecting the material world in favour of spiritual pursuits, all religious organisation in Japan (and elsewhere) have always been closely associated with money and materiality. The material and financial sponsorship of rituals, religious infrastructure and temple activities is what makes religion practicable, profitable and possible. In this talk, Kolata invites you to enter the world of regional Buddhist temple communities in contemporary Japan to explore “the how” and “the way” of voluntary and institutionalised practices of generosity that can sustain and fracture Buddhist economies.

Time and date: 13:00 - 14:30 (CET), Tuesday 2 March 2021
Read more and register here.
Organized by
Centre for East- and South-East Asian Studies at Lund University.

Myanmar after the coup

ASIANET seminar with Susanne Kempel, Marte Nielsen and Kristian Stokke

On 1 February, Myanmar’s military seized power after detaining the country's civilian leadership, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint. The coup was staged on the day Parliament was scheduled to hold its first session since the November elections, in which the National League for Democracy (NLD) won a large majority of the body’s available seats. The military and its political allies have since the election raised allegations of fraud, but have not been backed by the electoral commission. Citing the 2008 constitution the military has declared a year-long state of emergency, and says it will hold a "free and fair" election once the state of emergency is over. The coup has reversed the limited political reforms that the military itself installed in 2011 to create a “disciplined democracy”. However, the military seems unable to control or hold back the democratic revolution of Myanmar society that has taken place in the same period. Civil resistance against the coup has been extensive, and the past weeks have seen tens of thousands of people taking to the streets daily to protest the coup, in demonstrations not seen since the “Saffron revolution” of 2007.

In this ASIANET seminar we discuss the events leading to the coup in Myanmar, and explore possible future scenarios. What does the military intend to achieve during the state of emergency? And what will the coup and the widespread civil resistance mean for Myanmar’s democratic future?

Time and date: 12:00 - 13:00 (CET), Wednesday 10 March 2021
Read more and register here.

Thailand Update: Protests Revisited

Two-day conference from March 15-16 2021

Since the emergence of mass student-led rallies in mid-July 2019, political protest has once again become a major focus of interest in Thailand. This year’s Thailand Update (the sixth so far) links discussions of previous rounds of protest – notably the 6 October 1976 events, the subject of a major new 2020 book by Thongchai Winichakul – to ask searching questions about these recent demonstrations.


  • Thongchai Winichakul
  • Duncan McCargo
  • Tyrell Haberkorn
  • Prajak Kongkirati
  • Aim Sinpeng
  • Saowanee Alexander
  • Kanokrat Lertchoosakul
Read more and register here.
15-16 March 2021
Organized by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, the New York Southeast Asia Network and the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies.


Language Learning in Taiwan

Hua Yu Enrichment Scholarship and MOE Taiwan Scholarship Program

Scholarships for language learning and Scholarships in Taiwan are now open for applications.

Read more and find application forms here.

Deadline: 31 May 2021
Organized by Education Division of Taipei Economic and Cultural Office


New episodes in the #NordicAsiaPodcast

Looking for a listening experience full of researchers' insights on Asia? Try the Nordic Asia Podcast, co-hosted by NIAS, CEAS, ASIANETTVERKET and Forum for Asian Studies. Since the last NIAS Update, we've released the following episodes:

Give it a listen on your favorite podcast streaming platform or find it here.
Find even more events and calls on!
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