Housekeeping

Did Thai report really say Facebook 'causes teen pregnancy'?

Originally published at Siam Voices on March 5, 2012 Last week, we have reported on a report by the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) that suggests that "Facebook partly causes teen pregnancies". While this assertion is still totally laughable, I grew somehow skeptical about the English language article the previous post was based on.

Upon further study of the original report titled "Social Situation and Outlook 2011" (original title: "ภาวะสังคมไทยไตรมาสสี่ และภาพรวมปี 2554", PDF here) - there were a few discrepancies that might suggest that some lazy journalism was at work here and the NESDB might not sound completely ridiculous.

For example there was that last sentence here...

The public health survey in 2010 indicated that out of 760,000 babies born, 411,000 had died. The NESDB said that the figure shows that a number of mothers decided to have abortion.

NESDB: Facebook partly cause of teen pregnancies“, National News Bureau of Thailand , February 28, 2012

Over a half of the babies born have died within that year? Not really - according to UNICEF, Thailand just has an infant mortality rate of 1,1 per cent. Also, a look into the report reveals on page 15 that of the precisely 766,370 babies that were born that year, 105,487 of these pregnancies were carried out by mothers aged 20 years (13.76 per cent) - higher than the Asian average.

So, where does this monumental screw-up come from? Well, the same page indicates that  411,311 people of ALL ages have died in 2010. Simply put, that 'reporter' - deliberately or not - has taken the total grand mortality figure and wrote this as the infant mortality rate!

But does the NESDB report differs from the negative press coverage on the notion whether or not Facebook is partly to be blamed for teen pregnancies? Let's take a look - in the chapter "The number of revealing, inappropriate pictures in the online community is increasing, including children and youths" ("การเผยแพร่ภาพไม่่เหมาะสมในสังคมออนไลน์มี จํานวนเพ่ิมขึ้นและเป็นกรณีเด็กและเยาวชน มากขึ้น") it says:

ทั้งนี้ ในภาวะที่มีการขยายตัวของเครือข่ายทาง สังคมในโลกออนไลน์เช่น Facebook (...) มีผู้ใช้ เพ่ิมข้ึนอย่างรวดเร็ว โดยในปี 2554 เพิ่มข้ึนจากปี 2553 ถึงร้อยละ 96.3 โดย กลุ่มเยาวชนช่วงอายุ 18-24 ปีเป็นกลุ่มผู้ใช้ Facebook ท่ีใหญ่ที่สุดคิดเป็นสัดส่วนเกือบร้อยละ40ของผู้ใช้ท้ังหมด

And thus, with the presence of expanding online communities like Facebook (...) which has user base is rapidly growing at a rate of 96.3 per cent between 2010 and 2011. The biggest group of Facebook users are the youths between 18-24 years of age, which counts for 40 per cent of all users.

ปัญหาการใช้เทคโนโลยีไปในทางที่ผิดนั้นมีผลกระทบต่อเน่ืองตามมาต่อ (...) ชีวิตเด็กและเยาวชนมากมาย เช่น ก่อให้เกิด อาชญากรรม การล่อลวง ละเมิดทางเพศ การแสวงหาผลประโยชน์ทางเพศจากเด็กและเยาวชน และการต้ังครรภ์ก่อนวัยอันควร นำไปสู่ปัญหาการทำแท้ง (...) ซึึ่่งปััจจุุบัันมีีมากขึ้นต่อเน่ืองและกลุ่มเด็กวัยรุ่นรวมถึงเยาวชนมักเกิดพฤติกรรมเลียนแบบและซึมซับในสิ่งท่่ีเห็นซ้ําๆ

The problem of  the wrong usage of such technology has several consequences on the (...) life of children and youths, which could cause crime, fraud, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation of children and youth, and unwanted underage pregnancies, which lead to abortion (...) a problem that has increased in the present. Groups from teenagers to youths might imitate what they have seen over and over again.

"ภาวะสังคมไทยไตรมาสสี่ และภาพรวมปี 2554", NESDB, pp. 13-14 - translation by me

So, essentially they say Facebook might be a cause among many for teen pregnancies - if used improperly. While the authors of the report do not put the blame entirely on the social media network, they are concerned about the rapid speed where young people can share stuff online with each other and also that youths are easily enticed to do what their peers are doing or whatever the mass media is broadcasting.

However, the tone of the report is not as dogmatic as I initially thought - it even offers some  sensible advice (and by that I do not mean "playing football")

วัยรุ่นไทยมีเพศสัมพันธ์เร็วขึ้น สาเหตุมาจากเด็ก ได้รับสิ่งยั่วยุ ไม่ว่าจะเป็นการแต่งตัว การเลียนแบบ การใช้สื่ออินเทอร์เน็ต เกมออนไลน์ ภาพยนตร์ นิตยสารท่ีย่ัวยุทางเพศทําให้เกิดแรง กระตุ้นอยากมีเพศสัมพันธ์ ซ่ึงจะนําไปสู่การตั้งครรภ์ โดยไม่พึงประสงค์และการทําแท้ง

Thai youths have increasingly more sexual intercourse, because of enticement. Whether it's by fashion, imitation, the internet, online games, movies, glossy magazines that causes sexual tension [or arousal?], fueling the urge to have sexual intercourse, which may result in unwanted teen pregnancies and abortions.

แนวทางการป้องกัน - Guidelines

วัยรุ่นควรได้รับการอบรมและฝึกให้มีทักษะในการปฏิเสธในสถานการณ์ต่างๆ (...) การศึกษาพบว่าสถานที่ ที่นักเรียนระดับมัธยม ศึกษาปีท่ี2 มีเพศสัมพันธ์ครั้งแรก อันดับแรกร้อยละ 71.1 คือบ้านเพื่อน/บ้านตนเอง (สํานักระบาดวิทยา 2552) เทศกาลต่างๆ โดยเฉพาะเทศกาลวันแห่งความรัก เป็นจุดเริ่มต้นสําคัญอันดับหนึ่งท่ีทําให้วัยรุ่นมีพฤติกรรมชิงสุกก่อนห่าม ร้อยละ 47 (รู้ใจวัย รุ่นไทย: สื่อรักวาเลนไทน์ 2554)

Teenagers should taught to able to say 'no' in various situations. (...) Studies have found out that the most preferred place for Matayom 2 students [about 13-14 years old] to have sex for the first time is the friend's or his/her own home with 71.1 per cent (Source: สํานักระบาดวิทยา 2552) and special occasions, especially on Valentine's Day are an important day for 47 per cent of the teenagers to have 'premature behavior' [?] (Source: รู้ใจวัย รุ่นไทย: สื่อรักวาเลนไทน์ 2554)

ระดับครอบครัว/ชุมชน พ่อ-แม่ ต้องมีมุมมองเชิงบวกในเร่ืองเพศ เปิดใจรับฟังปัญหา ให้ความเอาใจใส่ ดูแลและให้ความร้กความอบอุ่น แนะนําและสอนให้รู้ถึงข้อดี/ข้อเสียของการมีเพศสัมพันธ์ก่อนวัยอันควร ร่วมกันมีส่วนร่วมในการพัฒนาและบ่มเพาะวุฒิภาวะให้กับเด็กและเยาวชน

Families, communities, parents have to have a positive perspective regards to gender, be open to listen to their problems, give support, warmth and reassurance, inform about the pros and cons of sex, in order to [help] develop and advance the children and youths.

"ภาวะสังคมไทยไตรมาสสี่ และภาพรวมปี 2554", NESDB, p. 15 - translation by me

However, I see a few problems here. First off, as it has been previously often mentioned here on Siam Voices, Thailand has a fundamental problem with sexual education and a fundamental lack to acknowledge sexuality as normal. With that in mind, it is doubtful whether or not on a grander (the society, the community) or on a smaller (the family, the parents) scale anyone could give sensible advice to a young person during the terribly exciting and excitingly terrible life period of puberty.

And second, one of the pieces of advice above suggests kids should stand up for themselves and say 'no' sometimes. Again, given the sorry state of our education system (see Kaewmala's brilliant series of posts on this here, here and here), how can you be taught to take care of yourself and to be a critically-thinking individual, when everything in else in school you are being taught is to follow suit?

Saksith Saiyasombut is a Thai blogger and journalist currently based in Hamburg, Germany. He can be followed on Twitter @Saksith and also on his public Facebook page here.

Announcing: Talk at Payap University on September 27, 2011

This is an open event, anyone is invited to come and you can RSVP on the Facebook event page. Also, you have any suggestions and hints for material, links, videos etc. send me an email, tweet or post on my Facebook page.

"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.

2010 - Some Personal Thoughts

I'm not good at writing a sentimental intro for a yearly review, especially if it has to be somehow holiday-themed. But many things have happened this year that are still stuck in my mind after all these months it is only appropriate to look back at it now. Without further ado, here a some thoughts of the year gone by: Of course the biggest event of 2010 were the anti-government red shirt protests earlier this year that went on longer than anyone has expected. Somehow I'm still amazed that over these nine weeks there was still a new angle worth writing about and still uncovered aspects of the protests, let alone the countless dramatic developments. I will now not recap each and every single thing that has happened (that's what the archive is for!), but looking in hindsight I sadly have to acknowledge that not much has happened that might improve the situation. Therefore, my rant back in May just right after the end still stands to this day - there is a lot to be done!

There were several stories this year that were incomprehensible or just mind-boggling for me. For example, there was the government's ludicrous response to Aung San Suu Kyi's remarks, only to be topped by an even more ridiculous suggestion of a senator that Myanmar's democracy icon might have been bought. Then there was Kasit's submissions for the 'foot in mouth'-award with not one, but two interviews to the foreign press where he displayed his 'knowledge' about European history. Other strange stories included an army spokesperson that became an overnight celebrity, a culinary culture war, the opposition in disarray and the antics of an Aussie in Bangkokwhat was he thinking...?

Unfortunately, there were also other occurrences that made me genuinely angry and made me questioning the sanity of mankind (and I'm not talking about the website "People of Walmart"). In no particular order: the army's insistence to continue using the GT200 device, which is already proven to be bogus (and having no shame to openly show their incompetence in presenting it); Krispy Kreme mania and people still going gaga over it (seriously, are people that brand-fixated to call even what is originally blue collar baked goods in the US as high class?!), Thailand's inability to introduce the Kingdom to 3G technology (while almost every other country in the region having it already and about to move on to 4G); people calling other people 'uneducated' yet at the same time failing at grammar (and still having the nerves to claim intellectual superiority) and a 'managing editor' of a 'newspaper', who is more busy preaching the most insane tweets - ever saw a Buddhist extremist? I have this year...!

But enough with the ramblings. Since this my personal review, I'd like to look back to what I have actually achieved this year. Let me first go on record saying that when I started this blog back in February I had not the slightest idea where this would lead me to. I had no idea how the protests would play out. I think this was the trial by fire for me. Now, many will argue that with me being thousands of miles away from Bangkok, I wouldn't be able to accurately report on the situation. I'd like to disagree - I didn't try to give an up to the minute report on what was happening there right now (apart from the live-blogs when the situation seriously deteriorated day by day), I was rather trying to recap the events gone by during the day and since I wasn't on the frontline, I focussed more on giving a different overview and provide context to the reader, who are interested to know more about the backstory of what is ultimately a pivotal event in recent Thai history.

No doubt the biggest scoop for me was the story about Thaksin's visit at Nelson Mandela and the question if he was really there (spoiler alert: YES!). I'm still amazed by how it quickly I actually got an answer from the Mandela foundation the next morning, thinking they might have been bombarded with press inquires already overnight. What I've done was essentially the reporter's equivalent of going through the front door to the reception desk and kindly ask for information - basically that's journalism 101! But I was still first to ask, while the entire Thai media apparently was dancing around the issue and instead going straight to the source! The reward was over 3,000 clicks within three days after this story went online, countless retweets, some coverage on Thai media (ironically with no one actually contacting me), a column about me by Suranand Veijajiva and me imagining some long faces in a building at Bang-Na!

The other story that included a surprising twist was the protest of the red shirts in Hamburg last September, not only because it was a chance to incorporate some of my own photography into my article. Essentially the red shirts in Germany, as with the Germany-based Thai diaspora in general, are a particularly very homogenous bunch of old ladies. When the goal of this protest was to make the German passer-by aware of the political situation und injustice, then they have failed in my opinion, because nearly most of the time the speeches on the loudspeakers were in Thai and even the German contributions or the direct approaches left everybody unconvinced and ultimately uninterested. And atypical for a Thai-style protest there was no food and music! I was ready to call it a day until there was a call-in by Thaksin. So I took out my voice recorder and pressed 'record'. What he said wasn't particular earth-moving, but the fact that he called-in here in Hamburg and nowhere else at the numerous other protests around the world is kinda telling for me. What then happened was typical Thai though: after Thaksin rambled continuously for almost 11 minutes, he was suddenly cut off because the power generator ran out of fuel...

All in all, in hindsight, I still can't somehow realize what advancements I have made professionally. From an avid Twitter user and editorial assistant in 2009, starting a blog in February 2010 and then seeing the progress from that point on still leaves me in sheer amazement. I have never imagined to be a guest writer at Bangkok Pundit over the summer and this gig to be continued what is now Siam Voices - I have never imagined to be actually paid for what I do, even if it's not too much, and to make my passion eventually to a job! Also, I successfully hosted a panel discussion on the Thai political crisis at my university, the first one organized at a German university on this topic after the protests. I feel nothing but pride and gratitude for what I've achieved in 2010!

And finally - this has to be said: THANK YOU ALL! THANK YOU to all readers, followers, friends, colleagues and groupies (one can dream, ey?) for your support, feedback, criticism, retweets and links. Your appreciation and acknowledgment is what drives me to keep on writing - even if it's at times exhaustive and mentally draining. I wouldn't have been able to achieve all this without you and I hope you will continue to support me when I'm building my professional future. I hope to eventually finish with university and make the jump to Bangkok full time in order to start a journalistic career there! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

And now, I have a little Christmas present for you - straight from my personal video vault! Back in 2008, I worked for a short-lived revival of a student-run TV programme called UniTV.Hamburg, which is essentially like campus TV. It was the first time I got my hands-on working in TV production and since we were under-staffed (and unfortunately not by the most helpful ones), I got my hands on nearly everything: filming, editing, narrating, hosting, producing etc. I eventually hosted two shows with nearly all segments (both in-studio and recorded) done by me until I had enough of being an almost one-man-production. This segment was done in late 2008 and aired in January 2009 and portrays the extremely fun sport of Speed Badminton (with the help of the talented Christian Betzer and Juliane Bergmann). So, enjoy this video with me essentially jumping around like a fool for five minutes - you don't need subtitles for this!

[youtube=http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbHpmQ_h88U&w=600&h=360]"Speed Badminton - UniTV.Hamburg - Januar 2009", video by me

I wish all readers and friends a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and all the best for an awesome, successful and Happy New Year 2011!

Housekeeping: Panel, Berlin & Guest-Blogging

Got some housekeeping announcements here for you: First off, the panel discussion we have hosted here in Hamburg last Monday went really well! I will write a round-up about this event (and the academic conference in Trier as well) soon, because secondly...

I'll be on the road again for the next few days, this time to a workshop at Humboldt University in Berlin about the Thai political crisis (they even have the same title "Thailand am Scheideweg" as ours!). They don't have a website for this event but you can read the programme here (PDF). I'll also give a little talk about myself and about the panel in Hamburg.

And finally, political blogger Bangkok Pundit has announced that he'll take some time off during the next few weeks. I'm happy to announce that I will be guest blogging for him during his break alongside other well-known bloggers. I want to thank Bangkok Pundit and his blogging platform AsianCorrespondent (AC) for this opportunity! Naturally, there'll be some slight chances. During the time of my guest blogging, most articles will be published on AC first and then on this blog one or two days later. Certain topics such as academia and general housekeeping will stay here.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter (@Saksith) for all the latest posts (and rants).