Thailand is in transition. So is the Mekong region, where more than 60 million residents inhabit and share the same river of the mighty Mekong.
Having been through a hard time of the 2014 coup and the post-coup period for over 5 years, Thailand is moving forward during this so-called transitional period, during which concerned parties have been attempting to bring democracy back to the society. Political reform, as such, has dominated the country since.
Nevertheless, it’s undeniable that part of the political conflict and division that Thailand has long endured is “inequity”, which is deep-rooted. It has long been undermining the country’s strength and values_even democracy itself.
While concerned parties have been putting efforts to address the political issue, such fundamental challenge somehow has been overlooked. In short, it gains far less attention than it is supposed to.
The Mekong region, meanwhile, has been moving through no less change and transition. Having picked itself up from a long history of the war-torn era in the 1960s, the region has been gearing up to a more comfort zone of economic growth.
High income and high GDPs have long been dreamed of among Mekong countries, which similarly set an ultimate goal to turn themselves one day into middle-income or even developed countries.
But those dreams have come with a price. Since the Mekong region picked up development at speed, its foundations, society and the environment, have been degraded or deteriorated as a result. Social and environmental impacts have been reported all over the region_not to mention the problem-ridden Mekong itself, which all the countries have shared.
Life here has been moving fast, often too fast, trying to pick up the broken pieces and reshape itself into a new brand identity. What is left behind, subsequently, is a widening gap, which over time has undermined the countries’ foundations.
To move through such a critical transition, social and environmental foundations in the region must be proportionately addressed alongside development, economic growth, a contest for power, and such. And a critical element to help the public become aware and understand this fundamental challenge is “the power of communication”.
The society here needs to be well informed so that people can learn and understand the issues of importance to their lives, thus being able to transform the gained knowledge into “social forces” that help drive change.
Having said that, the media in this region face various challenges; from infringement on press freedom to pressure by commercial as well as political interests, which in turn affect news values and judgments in the newsrooms.
Judgments affected by such interests, in particular, often prompt the newsrooms to leave out issues of importance in people’s everyday life. Without essential information and knowledge disseminated to the public, people would then not become aware of the problems they face and take action.
And more critically, the desirable “social forces” to help push for change and shape the society into a desirable setting_a free and fair society with strong foundations_ would never stand a chance, accordingly.
Critical changes in how the media here operate are therefore critically needed. These include the set-up of a news agency that is “in-depth and independent” from any pressures.
This is to allow an opportunity for the media to be able to maintain their critical thinking and constructive minds to deliver “constructive” work without any interference, thus being able to perform their tasks of “bridging the gap” and “connecting the dots” at their best, and pursue their roles as a critical voice that truly serves the public.
With an “informed and inspired” society, our desirable “social forces” could thus stand a chance to take root here to help us address the fundamental challenges that become increasingly complex in this modern time, and to bring us_hope.
And that’s all the reasons why we “Bangkok Tribune” are here_as the word “Tribune” says it all; the guardian of people’s rights.