Monday, April 27, 2009

Local media no longer feeling the Southern Fire

*All Images Copyright*
Flying over Yala Province courtesy of a development project tour conducted by the 4th Army August 2008.

From the Bangkok Post titled 11 Militant strikes in Narathiwat:

"There were 11 incidents attributed to southern separatist militants in five districts of Narathiwat province on Sunday night, but there were no deaths or injuries. Police said on Monday that bombs were planted in two locations in Waeng district. In Joh Airong district, insurgents set fire to a school and planted bombs in four places. The militants set fire to two transmission posts for cell phones in Ra-ngae district. In Bacho, they destroyed a power plant, causing a blackout of the entire district. A transmission post for cell phones was also burnt down in Janae district, and cell phone signals were cut in some areas. Police and soldiers were deployed to inspect the affected areas."

While it is clear that the insurgency in the Southern Border Provinces is not going away, it is also clear that the local media have lost interest in the story.

Southern militants on Sunday night demonstrated their strength and logistical capabilities by launching 11 coordinated attacks across the province of Narathiwat.

Local media demonstrated their disinterest by dedicating a parsimonious 7 sentences to the event.

While the Thai press has always been Bangkok-centric, there used to be a considerable media presence in the Deep South in the early years of the insurgency (2004-6).

TV stations, like the old I-TV, used to have satellite trucks and reporters permanently camped out at the CS Pattani Hotel who reported daily on the southern crisis.

Now, news gathering is almost exclusively from local stringers whom simply collect the basic facts from military spokesmen and forward that info to Bangkok where it is hastily organized into simplistic stories like the one quoted above.

In depth reporting on the sources of grievance, the lives of residents, or interviews with militants have all disappeared and local media complain that there is 'nothing new to report on' in the South.

Long gone is the national debate on solutions for and goal of understanding the conflict. This was apparent by late 2006, after the recommendations of the National Reconciliation Commission drifted out of national discourse, local reporting on the south became little more than simple reports detailing violent incidents.

Disinterest in the southern insurgency might seem inevitable while Bangkok and whole country is caught in the tumultuous ebb and flow of the Red vs Yellow political conflict.

Yet there is now a slight lull in the national conflict and the Abhisit Government appears to have weathered the latest storm.

There is even some discussion on reforming Government policy on the South.

While the lull in national conflict and window of opportunity for policy change might not last long, it would be nice to see the local media revive their interest and begin to regenerate debate on solving the Southern conflict.

Otherwise, the conflict will perpetually simmer and 11 violent incidents will continue to earn a mere 7 sentences in the local press.

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