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“Thai people have hardly used new media and social media to promote good governance or to stimulate social change. Therefore, more works need to be done to achieve the goals,” says Chiranuch Premchaiporn, director of the Foundation for Community Educational Media (FCEM) at roundtable discussions on “The Use of Social and New Media in Promoting Good Governance” and “A New Generation - New Media – In Society and Politics” on May 29, 2013, at the Westin Grande Sukhumvit Hotel in Bangkok.

The discussions, organized by Media Inside Out Group with the support of USAID Sapan Program, are aimed to raise awareness on the uses of new media for transparency, anti-corruption, and good governance in the society, master of ceremonies Somrit Luechai pointed out.

In the new media where receivers can be senders, media ethics, code of conducts and good governance was becoming more complex, compared to those of traditional media. The concept of using new media in promoting good governance was very popular after US President Barrack Obama won the first presidential election, says Chiranuch. “The US government has used new media as tools to inform, to listen to public’s comments, and to encourage public engagement for checks and balances system whereas the Thai government has used websites just to inform the government’s works but not for public services.”

Chiranuch cited the New York City’s Open Government website, nyopengovernment.com, as an example where necessary information, including bills and campaign expenses, are easily accessed, which reflects governmental transparency.    

Arthit Suriyawongsakul, coordinator of Thai Netizen Network

“Delayed disclosure of information of the Thai government equals to non-disclosure,” comments Arthit Suriyawongsakul, technology advisor at Open Dream and coordinator for Thai Netizen Network. In the eras of Thaksin Shinawatra and Abhisit Vejjajiva as prime ministers, information on bills were provided as electronic documents, which could be read only but were not machine readable, so they were not ready to be used by the public, he explains. “Thailand has ‘open’ government data but not ‘open government’ data,” he says, “National security is always an excuse of the government in internet censorship while in fact we need to act more for human security.”

NBCT Commissioner Supinya Klangnarong and Moderator Adisak Srisom

Supinya Klangnarong, commissioner of National Broadcast and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) observes that most Thai people tend to use new and social media for personal communications, rather than for social benefits.  The winner of “Communication for Social Change Award” by University of Queensland, Austria in 2006, suggests that in order to promote good governance, the Thai government use new media with open-mindedness and faster information dissemination efficiency. “The NBTC’s regulation is that a resolution must be uploaded and appeared on the website within 30 days.  By the time the information is uploaded, hot issues become stale. Via facebook, tweeter, and my website www.supinya.com, I can work to help the government’s information dissemination more digestible and more updated. However, compared to most of the governmental organizations which use new media only as tool for their press releases, the NBTC is considered fairly good at disclosing information.” 

Werapong Prapha, research communications manager at Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), explains that TDRI is using new strategies, to “change the society with knowledge”, trying to manage information for public uses with easier accessibility and more public participation.  “Traditionally, most researches at TDRI, Thailand’s think tank, were put on shelf after brief press releases. Presently, we have used all types of new and social media to dissemination information and reports. Infographics are also used for easier understanding.  Unlike in the past, the public are also participated in designing research topics, which are relevant to the betterment of the society.”

Sanoh Sookchareon, editor of Isra News Agency, states that he has been using his investigative news as tool for checks and balance system, anti-corruption and good governance. He cites an example of his reporting on exposing conflicts of interests of a member of Kasetsart University Council and chairman of the University Affairs Committee, who is reportedly involved in the university’s 3.4 billion Baht for 121-project procurement. “In the era where Thais are politically poles apart, we are subjected to being accused of supporting one or another party, but we need to have strong standing points.”

Wisnu Tri Hanggoro, program manager of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) comments that panelists are quite optimistic on new and social media.   He views that new and social media make the world digitally divided and media owners tend to manipulate the world, having their own vested interests.  Arthit Suriyawongsakul argues that with decentralized communication model of the new media, manipulation can also be done by many parties, instead of by only a few.

                                                                                Noppatjak Attanond

In the afternoon discussion session on “A New Generation - New Media – In Society and Politics”, Noppatjak Attanond, reporter and TV host of Nation Channel, who has been using new media for five years since the start of his media career and never been in traditional media, says that mistakes are quite common in real time reporting. “However, with experience, reporters have learned to be more careful because of the overwhelming feedbacks and effects,” he adds.    

                                                                                     Pinpaka Ngamsom

Like Noppatjak, Pinpaka Ngamsom, editor of Prachatai Website, has been working on the internet since the start of her career.  She states that the Prachatai website was conceived with the concept of new media being cheaper, faster, and able to present various types of information, including writing articles, images, sounds and video clips.  “A recent research found that 67% of Americans are using new media.  In Thailand, less than 30% of Thai people are using new media. This means that online participants do not reflect larger pictures of the nation.  This may be the reason why the numbers of “LIKE” on Facebook of former PM Abhisit Vejjajiva are larger than those of the present PM Yingluck Shinawatra, observed Pinpaka, who is also the author of “Online Media: Born To Be Democracy”.

Prab Laoharojanaphan, founder of League of Liberal Thammasat for Democracy, a student movement group after dispersal of the Red Shirt demonstrations in Bangkok in May 2010, shares that he has been using all types of new media in promoting his political campaigns, including “Free Somyot” Campaign, (Somyot is a political prisoner of Lese Majeste Law), and “Chareon Wat-aksorn” case (Chareon, a community leader who lead a campaign against power plant projects in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province, was shot dead in 2004).  He views that new media can attract much more people to participate in his campaigns with much less cost in advertisement.  “I would rather use three thousand baht in buying online advertisements than in printing posters in a traditional way,” he explains.

                                                                                      Chantalak Raksayu

Meanwhile Chantalak Raksayu, who works at the public communications department at the Foundation for SOGI Rights and Justice, also feels good about the new media in campaigning for lesbian’s rights.   “In the old days, members of lesbian groups received newsletters mailed to their homes or to schools for those who are teachers. There were cases that other people happened to open the mails and the teachers were ousted.  Today’s new media allow easier lifestyles for the LGBT as most of them feel more at ease online. Partners can be found online. Publishing LGBT novels online is also easier and much cheaper than traditional printing because there is no limitation for minimum printing on demand,” she explains.

                                                                                    Ismail Haji Wancik, editor of Wartani.org

“Mainstream media mostly serve the interests of majority of people in society and a lot of information and stories have been largely ignored,” says Ismail Haji Wancik, editor of Wartani Media Agency. He expresses that this is the reason of the establishment of his alternative news agency. “We have to give voices to local people in the south. He has joined the “Save Anwar” campaign via social media to build up understanding and calling for a just trial for former editor of Bugnaraya News and co-founder of Wartani News Agency Muhammad Anwar bin Isamel Hajiteh or Anwar, who was sentence to 12 years imprisonment for being a member of the BRN Coordinate, a group campaigning to separate the three provinces from Thailand, a charge he denied. 

Nualnoi Thammasathien, a senior journalist who has been working in the deep south of Thailand for the past few years, shares that alternative media open political spaces for the public to speak out freely. “This kind of alternative media can be tool toward non-violent reconciliation. State officials should support, rather than suppress this kind of alternative media,” she comments.

About guest speakers:

ARTHIT SURIYAWONGSAKUL, Technology Advisor at Open Dream and Coordinator for Thai Netizen Network

Arthit started his career as a software localization engineer in “The Network is the Computer” company. Later he joined academic and industrial artificial intelligence research groups, in journalism and medical domains. Since 2006, he has  given consultation and working for a number of organizations involving ICT for developments, Internet freedom, journalism, and information rights, like Mekong ICT Camp, Campaign for Popular Media Reform, and Creative Commons Thailand. In 2012, he finished his anthropology master with a thesis on "Facebook Politics". He tweets as @bact.

CHIRANUCH PREMCHAIPORN graduated in journalism at Thammasat University's Faculty of Journalism and Mass Communication, after which she took part in HIV/AIDS campaigns for more than a decade before joining Prachatai. She is strongly involved with issues of freedom of expression, internet access etc. In 2009-2012 she was prosecuted and convicted under the Computer Crime Law (CCA). She is currently Director of the Foundation for Community Educational Media. (FCEM), under which Prachatai is a project.                                                                                                      

SANOH SOOKCHAFROEN, Editor of Isra News Agency

Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Sociology, Naresuan University and a Master’s degree in Political Science, Thammasat University, Sanoh has worked in the media field since 1994 as a reporter at Prachachat Turakij Newspaper, Matichon Online, and Thailand Information Center for Civil Rights and Investigative Journalism (TCIJ). He is now an editor of Isra News Agency. He won several awards for investigative news in politics and among governmental officers, which include cases of land scandals in Chumporn and Ratchburi Provinces (Isra Foundation’s Complimentary Award and Best Investigative News Award by the Transparency Thailand), cases of politicians holding more than 5% of shareholders in the eras of General Surayuth Juthanond and Samak Soonthornvej as prime ministers and the case of corruption of Baan Ua-Arthorn Housing Projects (Isra Foundation’s Best News Award and Outstanding Investigative Award by Transparency Thailand).

SUPINYA KLANGNARONG

With a Master’s degree in Communications Policy and Regulation (Merit), University of Westminster, UK, Supinya started her media career by joining Pa Yai Creation Co., doing TV documentary films. After that, she had been working as a media activist and policy advocate for almost 18 years. She was a secretary-general and vice-chair of Campaign for Popular Media Reform (CPMR), a national NGOs working towards the democratization of communication, also a board member of Thai Netizen Network, an independent network of Internet citizens working to uphold cyber liberty in Thailand. She was awarded “Communication for Social Change Award” by University of Queensland, Australia in 2006. Supinya is also an author of “Freedom of Thoughts: Supinya Klangnarong”, a compilation of her printed articles on Krungthep Turakij Newspaper in 2005, and a book “Saying Truths”, of Open Publishing, in 2007. She is currently a commissioner of National Broadcast and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC), focusing on consumer’s rights and people’s rights and freedom.

WERAPONG PRAPHA, currently holds a position of Research Communications Manager at TDRI. He is responsible for the think tank's communications strategy and implementation to ensure meaningful impacts to the public at large. Formerly worked as a consultant at Ernst & Young LLP and UNDP, Werapong's primary interests are in the area of governance, development advocacy and communications. Werapong received his Masters in International Development from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

ADISAK SRISOM

Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Political Sciences (Adminstration) from Ramkamhaeng University and a Master’s degree in Mass Communications from Chulalongkorn University, Adisak was a reporter at the Pacific News Center, specializing in political, economic and social beats. He has worked as an emcee for the National Broadcasting Services of Thailand (NBT), a producer of TV documentaries, and a freelance emcee.

NOPPATJAK ATTANOND, Field Reporter and TV Host of Nation Channel

With a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, International Program from Thammasat University under his belt, Noppatjak started his media career as a business reporter before becoming a political reporter at Nation News Channel. Using social media to report news events to the public, his tweeter “@noppatjak” has a total of more than 100,000 followers. In 2010 Nappatjak won a “Best Journalist in Social Media” Award, co-organized by PC World Thailand Magazine, Dtac, and HP, an award to encourage new generation media to do their duties fairly via online media. He is also an author of “@noppatjak: Field Reporting as Seen from the Protest Mob”, and a columnist for many magazines. 

PINPAKA NGAMSOM, News Editor of Prachatai Website                                                                                                                                                  

Pinpaka was graduated from Thammasat University’s Faculty of Law before gaining a Master’s degree in Inter-Asia NGO Studies, SungKongHoe University, Korea. She is an author of “Online Media: Born To Be Democracy” book.  She also a co-author of “Breaking the Barrier”, with her article “Cyber Democracy in Thailand and Malaysia”, published in English by Democracy and Social Movements Institute, the Republic of Korea.

PRAB LAOHAROJANAPHAN, Founder of League of Liberal Thammasat For Democracy 

Prab is a graduate of Thammasat University’s Integrated Bachelor's and Master's Degree Program in Business, a founder of the League of Liberal Thammasat For Democracy -- https://www.facebook.com/lltd.tu, a student movement group after dispersal of the Red Shirt demonstrations in Bangkok in May 2010. He has also participated in political activities, including “Free Somyot” Campaign (Somyot is a political prisoner of Lese Majeste Law), Thailand's Criminal Code Article 112 Campaign, and the investigation on the appeal court’s judgment of the case of Charoen Wat-akson.

CHANTALAK RAKSAYU, Public Communications Department, Foundation for SOGI Rights and Justice

Chantalak was a coordinator of the “Anjaree” lesbian group prior to co-founding the Sapan Group to do media campaigns for lesbians’ rights.  She is also an author of novels about queers, with a hope to raise awareness on queers’ rights among Thai society. She initiated a novel translation project to raise awareness on gender diversity for the Teeranart Kanchana-aksorn Foundation.  Most recently, she works at the Public Communications Department of the Foundation for SOGI Rights and Justice.

ISMAIL HAJI WANCIK, Editor of Wartani Media Agency                  

Ismail is a graduate of Walailak University’s Faculty of Arts, a former leader of the university’s student council and Malayu Language and Culture Club, and a managing director of the Federation of students of southern border provinces (PERMAS). After graduation, he attended a journalism school of the Deep South Watch prior to establishing Wartani Media Agency, where he works as an editor. Ismail has participated in the “Save Anwar” campaign via social media to build up public understanding and calling for a just trial for former editor of Bugnaraya News and co-founder of Wartani News Agency Muhammad Anwar bin Isamel Hajiteh or Anwar, who, along with 8 other people, was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for being a member of the BRN Coordinate, a group campaigning to separate the three provinces from Thailand, a charge he denied.

NITHINAND YORSAENRAT is a senior journalist, writer and editor with a track record of experiences in both Thai and English newspapers for nearly 30 years, a lecture at Communication Arts, Huachiew Chalermprakiet University, and a former curriculum committee of Nation University’s faculty of Communication Arts.  She was a senior vice president of Nation Broadcasting Corporation Public Company Limited. Her present position is An advisor at Matichon Group. Nithinand is also an editor of several books, including “Media Watchdog” published by Nation Books International in 2003, .Siam/Thai Millennia: Eventful Years in Thai History”, and .Miracle Thailand”.   A founding member of Media Inside Out Group, she enjoys using new social media to connect with young generations.

SOMRIT LUECHAI is an independent scholar with his expertise in Southeast Asian studies; an independent journalist and a host of TV program.

 

The use of new and social media for good governance in Thai pluralistic society