Originally published at Siam Voices on December 23, 2011 (Note: This post was supposed to be up much, much earlier but was pushed back due to the floods and the re-relocation of the author back to Germany. Apologies to all involved for the momentous delay!)
Back in late September I was invited to hold a talk at Payap University in Chiang Mai and I chose to talk about a (social) media topic with the focus on the the 2010 anti-government Red Shirts' Protests, the knee-jerk demonizing of foreign media and what role social media played in this, if at all.
The talk is about 45 minutes long and includes 15 minutes of Q&A. The original full abstract can be found below the video.
Again, thanks to the people at Payap University for the invitation and organizing the event, especially Adam Dedman, Jessica Loh and Paul Chambers.
“Challenging the Sovereign Narrative – Media Perceptions of the Thai Political Crisis and the (missing) Role of Social Media”
Speaker: Saksith Saiyasombut
When: Tuesday, 27 September 2011, 5-6pm
Place: Room 317, Pentecost Building, Mae Khao main campus, Payap University
The Kingdom of Thailand rarely pops up on the global news landscape and if so, then it is mostly for a so-called ‘soft’ story. In recent years though, political struggles, often escalating in violent protests on the streets of Bangkok, have dominated the airwaves of the international media outlets, only to disappear shortly after the protests have ended. With the Thai political crisis dragging on for several years now, reporters are struggling to properly report and explain the situation without simplifying this to just a color-coded conflict between two opposing groups. In particular, the anti-government Red Shirt protests of 2010 were a watershed moment for how Thailand and its political crisis are regarded, with many Thais objecting to the foreign media’s coverage, as much as to openly vilify the international TV news networks. On the other hand, the domestic media have failed in its role to objectively explain and provide context to the political developments of recent years.
The more important issue is the rise of social media to counter a sovereign narrative of the mainstream and state media – however, Thailand has yet to see a grassroots revolution fueled by the Internet. Nevertheless, online services like Twitter and Facebook provide Thais a way to read and express alternative viewpoints and also a platform to fill the journalistic void left by other media outlets, but are threatened by the country’s ambiguously written Computer Crimes Act and lèse majesté law.
This talk looks at the perceptions of the international and domestic media of the Thai political crisis and why this struggle has not translated into an online uprising yet and aims to examine opportunities for “filling in the blanks” left by the mainstream media.
Saksith Saiyasombut is a Thai political blogger and journalist. He wrote for his hometown newspapers Weser Kurier and Weser Report in Bremen, Germany, before working as an editorial assistant for Asia News Network and contributing reporter at The Nation. He started blogging about Thai politics on his personal website www.saiyasombut.com in early 2010 and since September 2010, Saksith now writes for Siam Voices, a collaborative blog on Thai current affairs on the regional blog and news network Asian Correspondent. He is also currently a graduate student of Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Hamburg, Germany.