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Thailand unrest: In the thick of it

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Cathy Packe | 11:22 UK time, Friday, 30 April 2010

This week on Over To You, we take a look behind the scenes at some of the challenges faced by reporters covering news events under difficult circumstances.

One area of the world that is particularly hazardous at the moment is the Thai capital, Bangkok. Since the middle of March, there has been violent conflict between government supporters - the so-called Yellow Shirts - and the opposition Red Shirts, who support the former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006.

BBC correspondent Vaudine England paints a fascinating picture for us, as you can hear in this week's programme.

redshirts_bus_600.jpg

Thai residents glance at members of the Thai military as they stand guard on central Bangkok's Sukhumvit Road after red shirt protesters attempted to enter the residence of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. (Getty Images)

She describes how difficult it is to find out what's actually going on - made harder because of all the various rumours that are circulating from the two sides and all the different factions within them.

But add to that the problems of personal security - not helped by the location of the BBC office in the middle of the area occupied by the Red Shirts - and the fact that both sides in the conflict think organisations like the BBC are biased towards the other side - and you begin to get some idea of how tricky the life of a foreign correspondent can sometimes be.

Story Story

We also find out about the drama serial "Story Story", which is broadcast every week across Africa on the English network.

Eric Taylor, a listener in Accra in Ghana, emailed us to ask why a story about Nigerians going about their daily life  - and speaking in what he describes as "impenetrable local accents" - should be broadcast across the whole continent.

So, as you can hear, Rajan has been talking to Linda Nwoke, who's country manager in Nigeria for the World Service Trust, which is responsible for the programme. She explained to him about the work of the Trust in promoting good governance, among other things, which, according to her evidence, can be done very effectively through drama.

The Trust does similar things in other parts of the world, so if you are a fan, either of Story Story, or of similar broadcasts in other regions, we'd be interested to know whether you agree.

Cathy Packe is the Producer, Over To You

Over To You is your chance to have your say about the BBC World Service and its programmes. It airs at 00:40, 03:40 and 12:40 every Sunday (GMT).

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I am one Thai citizen who has been affected greatly by the protesters in Bangkok. The event has been going on for more than a month, causing a dramatic impact on the nation's economy, security state, and, most importantly, the feelings of its people.

    Ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has been one of the most popular politicians in the history of Thailand. His active campaigns on helping the Thais in rural areas have played an important role in winning him the love of the people, especially in the North and North-East. However, along the lines of his doings are the actions of corruption, of which only a few cases have been justified.

    As more and more Thais began to realize his misdoings, protesting groups started to form and merge together, resulting in the well-known PAD (People's Alliance for Democracy). To cut a long story short, we all know he was ousted and afterwards 2 more Prime Ministers took his place before the seat of Abhisit Vejjajiva.

    As some of you may have watched the interviews of the current Thai Prime Minister conducted by BBC and CNN, PM Abhisit Vejjajiva has stated clearly that his main goal is not to remain in his own chair, but to restore peace and unity for the country. He didn't become Prime Minister illegitimately; in fact, all the procedures he went through in order to be Prime Minister followed the law. Personally, I still cannot understand why the red shirt protesters keep saying the opposite. Even worse than that, I can't, and will never be able to, comprehend how they can say that the ex-Prime Minister did everything for them, while in reality all the things he did was for himself.

    Rumour has it that the red shirts are paid to attend the protest. Honestly, I do not know for sure if it's true, but I have talked to several of them, and they said that they receive 500 baht daily, while their leaders get a million monthly. I'll leave that to you to think.

    Some of you might feel uncertain why many of us dislike the ex-PM so. I shall give you an example. While the current Prime Minister started campaigns to help the poor, giving out cheques of 2000 baht to everyone to encourage the flow of the economy, Thaksin Shinawatra visited certain rural areas of the country and unofficially hand out bank notes to those who welcome him, and that money, for your information, was only a small proportion of the money he corrupted off the country. And the red shirts say Abhisit Vejjajiva does nothing to help the poor!

    One other aspect I would like to mention today is about the King of Thailand. For thousands of years, Thais have cherished and looked up to our kings. For over 60 years, King Bhumiphol Adulyadej has ruled the country and done everything he can to help the people, especially those who are hard to reach for the government. Hundreds of campaigns for the improvement of the rural areas are started by His Majesty and the Royal Family, and we Thai people respect and love him so dearly we have pictures of him hung on the walls of our homes. You might also remember the celebration of the 60th year of His Majesty's reign, where all Thais wore yellow and waved flags to greet him. That event was, just once, one that said in itself that Thais are one.

    But now, certain groups of people are beginning to throw accusations upon the King, disrespectfully, blaming on him the inequality of the people. Websites are set up with a determination to say bad things about him, without any thoughts on all the things he did for us Thais. That is also the red shirts' ambition, although I believe many of the protesters still have no clue about what is going on. The leaders know it well, as the idea was originated by the ousted ex-PM, but they need to implant it slowly and carefully in the people's minds, as many of the red shirts still believe that they are there for the King.

    Whatever the red shirt or ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra are thinking and aiming to do, there are Thai people who still love and cherish the King of Thailand, and will do anything to protect him. I am one of them. The red shirts, although they say they are the citizen, DO NOT represent the whole nation of Thailand. There are still many (and I believe a majority) of us who dislike and disagree with these protesters, and are more than ready to sacrifice our lives, if that's what it takes, to prevent them from harming our beloved king any further. Long live His Majesty the King of Thailand.

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    Before everyone goes overboard about the Reds, can I remind people that it was the Yellows who illegally occupied airports last year and caused untold inconvenience and expense to international travellers..

    With no-one from the Yellows having been prosecuted or gaoled for what was tantamount to hijacking or kidnapping, it is hardly surprising that other political groups now believe they can protest in any way they want.

    Remembers the Yellows: it was THEY who started this business of causing chaos.

  • Comment number 4.

    Is division by colour would appear to be the issue here?

  • Comment number 5.

    Ahem . . sorry my original comment ^ makes no sense

    Is colour the major division here?

  • Comment number 6.

    europeeno, it's not 'colour' that's the great division but what is represented by the colour: a poor, or relatively poor underclass, saw a leader who had not been born into the elite and who (on his way to the top) did not forget the people. Whatever you say about Thaksin, he was very different from the usual run of Thai politicians - and, let's face it, as a breed, they have hardly been above reproach. (There are some notable exceptions to this generalisation, of course.)

    Unless the powers that do exist make real steps to accommodate the people, the future for Thailand looks grim indeed. But - to the poor - it's never been otherwise. Ask the Isaan taxi driver in Bangkok why he's there - is it because he's earning a fortune? Hardly. And where is his money going? Once overheads have been covered, he's trying to keep the heads of his family above the waters of poverty..

    The rich don't want to know about this - they just want cheap labour and convenience for themselves.

    The poor see their people persecuted, their representatives hounded from power, and they react - hitting at the centres of power. It wasn't an airport that the Reds invaded, remember: it was the Parliament building, the Parliament that, in collusion with the judiciary, had tried to destroy the people's voice by destroying and hounding the senior politicians who had been elected to represent that voice.

    The Yellows got away with international hijacking and holding hostages in airport buildings. Not a single one was punished for this. So we all know which side the Thai authorities are on, don't we...

  • Comment number 7.

    Why not have a game of table tennis to sort it all out?

  • Comment number 8.

    I see the latest news is that armoured vehicles are now being used to disperse crowds in Bangkok. Pity the same force wasn't used on the criminals who wrecked Thailand's reputation by taking over the airports last year.

  • Comment number 9.

    Cathy:

    From what I have seen and heard on BBC World Service and BBC World...The coverage that the employees have provided has been fair to both sides.....And, also, not taking sides!

    (Dennis Junior)

  • Comment number 10.

    Misperception caused by the disparity coverage in the BBC's reports has become the major concern among viewers in Thailand. Journalism has proven to be the most powerful tool in the political arena. Not all are equipped with critical eyes therefore, the poor accuracy, bias view, ignorance, silence and sensational implication by the news media have had fatal effect on our national integrity. There can be no darker time because we have no idea what life is left for us if we will ever get through this madness.

 

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