Thailand’s Oppressive Media Law

It was the summer of 2008 and I was in Bangkok, Thailand, on a then work related trip that left me enough spare time to look around and do some reporting.   My focus included alternative media, and lucky for me, a good friend introduced me to Jiew, editor of the alternative magazine  We did a very interesting and informative podcast about the situation in Thailand, which included a discussion of the limitations on press freedom in that country.

During the interview we touched upon the “Lèse Magesté”: extremely oppressive laws that govern how you can or cannot talk about the royal family.  As a journalist, you are not allowed to criticize the royal family in publications.  Doing so would constitute a serious offense and while I can’t remember what the average sentence could be, I remember it was bad.  Jiew was extremely well versed in what a reporter or media channel could and couldn’t do in their work, even an alternative source.  To my surprise she even asked me to turn off my recorder when we got to the part about the laws regarding media and the royal family.  She explained off the record how it works and the risk that one ran by publishing anything considered critical the exalted king.  It marked, still to this day, one of the few times in the 7 year history of my program, that I’ve had to turn off a recorder for legal reasons- even just to hear a seemingly harmless explanation of the rules.

Over the years Jiew and I have of course remained in contact, whenever there’s something (and there always is) going on in Thailand or SouthEast Asia, I know I can ask her for help with information or perhaps a good source to better understand what is happening.

Unfortunately, and to my great shock and disappointment, the Thai government is now pursuing a case against her.  Claiming, I believe, a violation of the Royal Family criticism laws at her publication; they are seeking a jail sentence.  As many watchdog groups have reported, the government is clearly afraid of someone so committed to reporting what is really going on behind the dog-n-pony show Thailand puts on for the tourist masses.

And so an excellent journalist, a friend of this, and someone who has dedicated her life to making the world around us a better place faces the looming threat of being convicted of a crime that should have long been stricken from the legal books in favor of real universal human rights.  All the more reason for us to help Jiew beat this bogus charge in any way we can, so she can fight twice as hard next time to keep this from happening ever again.

(To be continued, trail posponed to February)

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ctrp369 Modern War over Ancient Land

The Temple
Temple photo by flickr member: Everything Everywhere

The Preah Vihear temple is piece of world heritage dating back to the 9th century. But the war being fought over who controls it between Combodia and Thailand is going on right now in 2011.

This past month saw more fighting between both nation’s military, with a number of casualties, all despite the fact that there has been an international court of justice ruling on who rightfully controls the temple. Some forces in Thailand see it as a matter of national pride and heritage to hold on to this ancient site, while the Combodian government answers with their own bravado. In the line of fire lay poor people, historical heritage, and a legacy of violence.

My guest is a blogger, author and concerned Khmer-American Sambath Meas who has appealed to the UN and ASEAN to stop the war and mediate a settlement.  You can read her letter and more posts related to this conflict on her site, you can also read her book “The Immortal Seeds: Life Goes on for a Khmer Family”

Update: Sambath just posted a followup video to our interview on her site! In my 6+ years of podcasting, she is perhaps the only guest to ever do so!

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bm268 Teenagers and HIV-AIDS in Thailand

An interview recorded in Bangkok with an HIV-AIDS organization that works with children and teenagers.

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Hua Hin, Royal Holidays

Originally I was coming to the beachside getaway known as Hua Hin in hopes of being closer to an ongoing conflict further south in this province, between a fishing village and the steel corporation that wants to built a smelter on their shores.

However due to my compulsive buying of a ticket to Cambodia, my Hua Hin and subsequent time in Prachuat Kiri Kahn province will be cut short and Ill head back to Bangkok in less than 24 hours.  But I still managed to get down here with a little help from the magic of couch surfing and the international website for people to find and offer places to stay for free, known as

As it did when I went to New Orleans and met lil Robin, or when I stayed in Heidelberg and stayed with Jenny, the magic of the internet has once again led me to meet a very special human and I’m geatly enjoying my time here with him and his family.  An exciting mix of international and thai culture, the highlight of the house has to be the 7 ear old girl who runs around practicing her english and making the cutest faces at everyone.  She has leant me a two of her finest stuffed animals, the crocodile and the teddy bear, who she recommended I place on my bed.

Hua Hin is an interesting place. Not unique really, as many many tourists can and do easily get here, 3 hours south of Bangkok.  It is more famous for being the vacation place for the royal family.  Talk about loved, Thai people seem crazy about the royal Family.  As a critical mind and a staunch rebel, I have a hard time understanding it.  Every monday there seem to be people wearing all yellow as some sign of royal day, a show of support I guess, for the king.  Looking out the window of the extra-cramped minivan I rode down here in, there are photos of the royal family everywhere, especially right smack over the highway or on random billboards.  It seems like one of those VERY Thai things.

So after a brief visit to the beach, an elephant farm, and other tourist enemities, I will return to Bangkok, as truth be told, I’m gearing up for my 4 day visit to Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

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