Media War

exposing media bias in Thailand

“Folk media” Vs Social media

while twitter is important, there are larger

world out there that one needs to talk to

The above epigraph is a quintessence of the main subject of this post, which in other words is: all the statistics about social networks as Facebook as well as any other internet activities do NOT reflect the REALITY of political alignment.

Why so far till now Demo-craps’ gov of handsome & smart Oxford educated  PM Abhish1t, who swears his firm adherence to “reconciliation”, as well as pro-gov yellow (in both senses) Thai MSM  has failed to win hearts of a large portion of population (alright, I don’t use word “majority” – coz some claim anti-gov protesters are not majority, but just a group of people, while real majority are so called “silent majority“)  of Thailand.

Despite total information / communication blackout &  rigid harsh censorship, and at the same time  – ferocious Propaganda (of combined might of  gov + Thai MSM + Thai academics + yellow-shirt media ASTV/ Manager group + all the social online pro-gov groups as FB, twitter, etc ! ),  somehow Thai MSM & gov say that they’ve lost “info-war” to anti-gov protesters (brutally suppressed)  – WHY? and how it can be possible ?

In previous two posts it was attempted to assess role of different media in current political turmoil in Thailand, particularly Mainstream Media (MSM), both local Thai & foreign / international, then what is called “Alternative media“ and “social media“ (and / or “citizen journalism“).

Thai gov, academics, military & of course Thai MSM,  as well as large PAD crowd (aka yellow shirts, or as they now call themselves “multi-color shirts”) – all of them have realized quite some time ago the significance of  both “Alternative media“ and social media“.  PAD was  perhaps first to realize that and established their own ASTV / Manager network which has played significant role in ousting  former PM Thaksin and then 2 pro-Thaksin governments of Samak & Somchai.

Credit for that of course largely to one of the PAD’s founders & key-leader Sondhi L, media tycoon himself, accordingly a guy who knows importance of media in politics. Although shouldn’t be underestimated huge role of another PAD’s leader Chamlong, who is also active member of  banned (by mainstream Buddhists) sect Santi Asoke & former leader of  semi-religious political party, as well as main leader of 1992 civil upraising against military dictatorship (despite being a retired General himself).  Particularly the fact that Chamlong has got some special education & training :

Newly commissioned Second Lieutenant Chamlong was assigned to the Signal Corps [boys who deals with Communication & information in military ! 😉 ] in Bangkok as a platoon leader. He received advanced training in military communications at Fort Monmouth [famous ! “Soul of the Signal Corps” ] , New Jersey, and Fort Gordon [also “Signal Corps” , TRADOC] , Georgia…

He later served in Laos as a communications officer supporting Thai units fighting the communist Pathet Lao and the North Vietnamese Army. He returned to Thailand to attend the Army Command and General Staff College, and also underwent six months of counterinsurgency training(in 1964)  Chamlong was sent to the Schofield Barracks in Hawaii for a six-month course on military signal equipment.

Assigned to South Vietnam as part of Thailand’s ten-thousand strong troop deployment during the Vietnam War, Chamlong served as a senior planning and operations officer

In 1972, Chamlong attended the U.S. Navy’s Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, where he completed a two-year management course. For his master’s degree thesis, he wrote a study of labor unrest in Thailand. Following his graduation, he returned to the Military Research and Development Center.

So, alright, you get the picture? 😉  I mean this guy is not simple regular general  – but a professional, actually must say THE PROFESSIONAL ! In what? In Military communications! Schooled at THE best places in the world which teach this stuff. As well as  – got advanced training in planning, management, counterinsurgency  AND  has completed thorough study of … what ?  Labor unrest.  HOLY SHIT !  Who else is best suited to lead such a movement as PAD ?   As all that wasn’t enough, add to that  – being a strict vegetarian, celibate, ascetic, self-sufficiency promoter, and religious zealot ! ( it is mentioned that he’d split with Prem due to differences on abortions legislation)

Of course, Sondhi L  not simple cookie either (being called “Asian Rupert Murdoch” – although I’m not sure how accurate it is, perhaps more like a flattery? ).  Many talk of his father being KMT (and himself somewhat associated with it? ):

Sondhi, alias Lin Ming Da, was born to an immigrant Kuomintang family in Bangkok in 1947. His father, a former officer at the Whampoa Military Academy, set up a publishing company to sell Chinese works to fellow settlers. Sondhi’s elite education included a French missionary boarding school, Chinese and mechanical engineering courses in Taiwan [the place where KMT fled & still continues to act], then history at ucla and Utah State University. Returning home in 1973, he became executive editor of the left-leaning Prachathipatai (Democracy) at the age of 27. By 1983 he had launched a string of publications, and succeeded in getting Manager Media Group listed on the booming stock market in 1990.

Some more details about Sondhi (as well as Sino-Thai aka lookjin in general, and their role in Thai politics, particularly in PAD) is here (on page 264, or just do search of document for his name) – it is a VERY interesting read ! anyway, got carried away to another subject already…

So, coming back to the main point:  that PAD’s success in outing TRT (Thaksin) and then 2 other governments by “re-incarnated” TRT (PPP) – largely was due to the fact that 2 of the main PAD’s leaders are professionals in media and communications.

This is sort of a prelude – to give and idea what current  anti-gov protesters (UDD)  are up against:  even PAD alone is a formidable adversary, even if not  count others – government (with its ministries of information, ict, funds, resources, army of academics, etc) ,  army (who has their own departments dealing with PR & communications), Thai MSM  and  worth mentioning large number of  internet users (who’re mostly urban residents, middle, upper-middle class & “hi-so”) which comprises the majority of users of such online social networks as Facebook, Twitter and multiple web-boards.

I think PAD was first to recognize growing importance of Alternative media – thus they’ve established their own network  ASTV (popular epithet : “a$$hole TV” 😀 ). UDD tried to do the same and made few attempts to open their own TV stations, but naturally Demo-crap gov, being fully aware of the ASTV’s success in delivering information to PAD’s followers – has made sure that  UDD’s  cable TV (DTV then PTV) was limited or completely blocked.

At the same time PAD, being comprised mostly of educated & more well-to-do (comparing to red-shirts / UDD) and thus tech/ internet savvy – they made a wide use of all the facilities which modern IT technology provides, as well as all the social networks, etc. They have opened their own websites, blogs, web-boards, as well as actively (and it is fair to say – aggressively) commented all over youtube, any major news agencies, as well as blogs, forums, etc – and it must be  emphasized :  both in Thai AND in English ! (I guess in many other languages too – but I never checked, since I use only Engl. myself )

Apart from that – PAD has published many books and magazines – once I was astonished to stumble upon whole section / shelf of  PAD’s books in Kinokuniya book store at Siam Paragon. Also since Jan 2009 PAD has arranged a series of “concerts” all over the country – sort of traveling propagandist programs to spread their ideas.

I do not mention so much gov’s own extensive work to counteract “red propaganda” (as Thanong calls it), or  Thai MSM  – whom I’ve already blogged about a lot (and many other bloggers too).

So, last year during April 2009 strikes & riots that followed, and especially after that – anti-gov protesters  didn’t pay so much attention to the Media side of their mission. Many discussed that one of the main reason of their  failure was precisely this lack of adequate media coverage, both domestically and internationally. That’s why they taken whole year to correct this mistake and this year  they had a whole team of  volunteers totally full time busy with PR & dealing with Thai &  foreign MSM, and  especially   – not trusting so much MSM – making sure to establish steady flow of information online through their own blogs, forums and using social networks, as Facebook and Twitter. Role of Twitter was largely discussed already even by Thai MSM (see previous post for some links to articles on this matter)

Now, coming to the MAIN  point of this post: “Folk Media”  as I’ve decided to call it, not being able to find a better term. I thought first to use phrase “grass-root media”  – but then saw that it is mostly used for some other purposes. So, the purpose of this post is to try to emphasize that actually anti-gov protesters have their own “media”, so to say – which in fact doesn’t fit into any above mentioned categories like MSM, Alternative media (for convenience I’ll use acronym AM), Social Media (I’ll use acronym SM) or even “citizen media” (or as it is more known in the West – “citizen journalism“; I’ll use acronym CM) – but more like the very basic, trivial level called “word of mouth“.

I think it is pretty obvious about all the first few (MSM, AM), why “Folk Media” (I’ll use acronym FM) doesn’t fit into those categories: because ordinary people can’t afford neither publish nor buy/ read publications regularly, as, say, urban dwellers buy daily newspapers. Another thing is – censorship, particularly closure of  PTV as well as all the protesters’ websites and on-line media.

Regarding SM & CM  – these mostly and largely depend on internet usage. However majority of anti-gov protesters are provincial & rural people – farmers, labor, etc – as well as those of them who moved to Bangkok from their villages in search of job, but their economical situation hardly has improved so much.

In other words, majority (I don’t know exactly – what percent ?) of all those people  simply can NOT  afford to have the things necessary for participation in SM & CM:

– money to buy computer (or  net-books, smart-phones or iPAD – latest fashion);

– money to have monthly subscription for high-speed internet;

– education / skills to use such things even if someone gives that as gift;

even TIME to spend sitting in front of computer even doing the most basic thing as reading news on-line, what to speak about participating in all different Forums, or socializing on Facebook or Twitter, or writing their own blogs !

So, taking into consideration these things – one can understand that majority of people who comprise “red-shirts” ( or anti-gov protesters / UDD ) – they do NOT participate in such things practically at all. Although of course there is some number of them who live in cities/ towns, have education, money, skills and do use internet and all those things. But their percentage is perhaps very little comparing to the rest !

In previous post I’ve quoted some articles which provide some statistics :

The Power Of Information

Internet penetration in Thailand amounts to barely a quarter of the population. And tens of thousands of red-shirt(s)… are not typical web surfers . But with some 2.5 million Thais on Facebook and 39,000 Twitter subscribers

Another source (Bangkok Post) mentions 3mln Facebook users.

Another source, fellow blogger Jon Russel specializing in SM and IT, has following statistics on his website (scroll down, on the right):

Thailand: Quick Stats

– 40 million mobile phone users
– 12 million mobile internet users
– 16 million fixed internet users
– 25% internet penetration rate
– 2.5 million Facebook users

Detailed statistics with references to sources are here : Thailand Social Media Statistics

In his latest post he provides number of 3+ mln FB users. Jon has a lot more very interesting stuff on his website, worth reading  – particularly related to Censorship, Social Media, etc.

So, according to Wiki population of Thailand is some 63.5mln people – from them only 16mln have fixed line internet, or about 25% of entire country’s population. Then, it is not known exact number of anti-gov protesters and their sympathizers, nor the percentage of them being farmers/ rural people or urban. However according to what I could find (see: “Demographics of Thailand“), it is said that :

The population is mostly ruralurban population – 31.1% of the total population, principally in the Bangkok area...

That means the proportion in “red-shirt movement” would be similar to or much less than that. So, what does that mean? It means that most of these people do NOT use internet at all ! In other words – they do NOT even read, what to speak actively participate, in FB, Twitter or any forums, websites, blogs, etc.

I don’t know exactly  – do all of them watch TV or not? but they certainly do not trust anymore all the main TV channels, and their own People Channel  is blocked. Which means – they do not rely on TV almost at all for getting information. What else then? Major newspapers also are mainly either openly pro-gov  or heavily self-censoring. Their own publications are banned mostly and usually seized. What else is left?

Well, back in 1992 during similar political uprising, when junta has also blocked all the media – that time people used faxes instead, since most of protesters were urban dwellers. Now “red-shirt” protesters mostly use following means to share / spread news & information:

– mobile phones (those who has them) or normal phones;

– some self-printed materials (similar to Samizdat in communist countries);

– VCD/ DVD  (which mostly contain stuff obtained from internet & youtube);

– photos (relatively & occasionally);


– verbal exchange  or  already mentioned above “word of mouth“;

Of course, there are no any statistics about any of these – only that cell phones & printed materials are curbed/ blocked/ censored/ jammed too.  I guess that the last one (“word of mouth“) is predominant form of communication and information – because I am not so sure that many village people  have enough money that they can regularly purchase any other materials (“hard copies” so to say). Most likely, some of them who can afford that – share with others. Also community Radio plays large role – particularly I saw many times myself that most of motor-bike & taxi drivers  listen to the radio, because it is cheap, as well as it doesn’t much distract them from their work. And this is important point:  most of these people have to work hard to meet the ends, therefore they don’t have much time to even watch TV or read printed publications even if they could afford having them. Radio is widely available and used all over rural areas. However government knows this too, that’s why practically all the radio stations are under firm control / close watch of  military, and those very few radio station which are not  – if they are found to be used by / for anti-gov protesters are being blocked. Fellow blogger Ricefield Radio, being radio broadcaster himself in rural area, has researched this matter thoroughly and his latest post is dedicated to it :  Enemy of the State #12 – Media Censorship

Directly after the [2006] Coup, 2000 community radio stations in the North and Northeast were closed by the Military. Most of those stations have again taken to the airwaves mostly illegally. A fair portion of those stations were anti coup and since anti Democrat…

It’s not just community radio it’s also the print media. Any organization that comes out against the government or its policies instantly finds the government on the offensive to close it down. The government has asked the print media to self censor…

I’ll bring you back to an earlier point, “if you do not appeal to your audience you will not survive”. For the government to be so concerned to ban these publications these publications must have mass grassroots support...

In time and circumstances when there is a lack of one or another  “hard copy” of communication (in the form of materials & objects), people just meet up and talk, using direct verbal communication (or organize rally & stage with microphone, sounds system, speakers, etc ). Therefore I guess the conclusion is :  spoken word (“word of mouth” – to me a bit odd phrase actually –   as if there is any other word than from mouth ) is the MAIN  form of communication used by  anti-gov protesters, and perhaps now is the ONLY remaining one. (Although RR blog has another interesting observation, that rural folks are actually much more informed than some may think :  “Great Uninformed Mass“). And the thing is – it is very difficult or practically impossible to censor or block such form of person-to-person communication (even though according to Emergency decree it is prohibited to gather in groups more than 5 persons – perhaps for very reason to limit or stop such verbal communication too).

Now, take into consideration all the above mentioned (what they were up against, as well as what were their resources & who’re their base & what is their capacity to receive information) and now what UDD team said themselves :

Our sides had no clues what the modern media war is, I just like to think that while twitter is important, there are larger world out there that one need to talk to

So, somehow success in “info-wars” and winning minds & heart of people doesn’t actually depend so much on all those modern sophisticated tech, nor skills or knowledge or even on all different kinds of common media (MSM, AM, SM, CM) or their blockage/ censorship. Then what actually matters to achieve that success ?  FACTS!  or in other word – truth. And UDD communication team does realize it, because they said :

Let’s me ask you this!   The Nation twit so much, how come no one renew their subscriptions.

ASTV and Nation must  twit to maintain their bases, but we are gaining substantial Yellow converts with  facts !

In the end, facts are what matters, and the most common or even uneducated people as some farmers and villagers – can can see / feel/ understand what is truth and what is not.

So, “Folk Media” is more effective in the end ? 😉

P.S. I’m sure that there is a lot more things which could be added, facts, examples, evidences. Of course I couldn’t cover all that – I trust that someone else out there would add to this effort.


May 28, 2010 - Posted by | Ajarns-watch, Anti-establishment, Fallacies in Thai Media, Media Control, PAD-watch, Propaganda, Thai MSM | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. […] the original post here: “Folk media” Vs Social media « Media War 28/05/2010 – 19:40 | By apanhamentirosos | Posted in Commentary, Media, Publishing | Tagged […]

    Pingback by “Folk media” Vs Social media « Media War – World Media Information | May 30, 2010 | Reply

  2. Also lets not underestimate the advantage the LM laws and Computer Crimes Act gives those holding the reins – both can be effective tools for limiting the dissemination of facts.

    A couple of generations of people brainwashed to believe in ‘Thai culture’ is another thing limiting facts from being digested.

    Comment by nganadeeleg | May 29, 2010 | Reply

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by James , Pisarn Chaijitvanich. Pisarn Chaijitvanich said: RT @MediaWar: [Blog] “Folk media” Vs Social media #Bangkok #Thailand […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention “Folk media” Vs Social media « Media War -- | May 28, 2010 | Reply

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