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Young journalists learn of forest roles for good governance and social justice

Young reporters discover how strong forest governance helps to overcome poverty and social justice, protect biodiversity and fight climate change.

Kulthida Sittiruechai never imagined that northern Thailand’s disappearing forests could ever have an impact on her city life hundreds of kilometres away.

But her participation in a three-day workshop with other young journalists in 2019 forever changed her understanding of forests and their importance for all communities.

“This workshop made me aware of the many challenges facing our forests and how the forests relate to all our lives,” says Sittiruechai, one of 15 participants at the workshop. “As reporters, we need to gain more in-depth knowledge in order to report correct information to the public.”

The Young Thai Forestry Journalist Workshop, organized by RECOFTC and Raks Thai Foundation, brought together not only the young reporters, but more senior journalists, along with forestry professionals and members of forest-dependent and ethnic communities.

They examined the many roles of forest management, including how it can benefit local communities’ livelihoods. They discussed how effective management can foster public participation in and awareness of forests, protect rights of ethnic minority groups and their habitats, improve natural resource management and help fight climate change for all. 

Sitthiruechai, from Thammasat University in Bangkok and writing for Thailand’s web-based magazine The Momentum, explored how an ethnic Karen community near Kaeng Krachan National Park coexists with the forest and how changes to Thailand’s national park laws can impact on their lives (link).

The young journalists were selected from more than 50 candidates across the country studying forestry, mass media and communication. The workshop was organized through the Voices for Mekong Forests (V4MF), a five-year project funded by the European Union.

V4MF aims to strengthen the power of non-state actors such as civil society, Indigenous Peoples, the private sector and local community groups to engage in and influence forest governance in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam.

Kulthida Sitthiruechai from Thammasat University, writing for The Momentum, explored how the Karen community near Kaeng Krachan National Park coexists with forests and how the National Park Acts of 1961 and 2019 have had an impact on their lives.

At the workshop, Way Magazine Editor Kowit Potisarn, BBC Thai section’s Bangkok Editor Kultida Samabuddhi and The Momentum Editor Chatrawee Sentanissak shared their experiences on covering environmental issues. 

The workshop was valuable even for those with a solid knowledge of forests. Prapawin Phuttawanna, from Kasetsart University’s Faculty of Forestry, says her understanding deepened after speaking directly with ethnic minorities and conducting field research. She learned how the Pakakayor ethnic group can help preserve forests while fostering their livelihoods.  

“It was an eye-opening experience,” says Phuttawanna from Chiang Mai. “Classroom knowledge about forests is not enough for working in the real world. This project inspired me to learn more.”

During the workshop, Warangkana Rattanarat, director of RECOFTC Thailand, motivated the young journalists to dig deep into forest issues. “They can create public understanding based on new knowledge, through their reports,” she says.

Nattawut Loisa, of Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Mass Communication, was able to combine a workshop field assignment on improving livelihoods with his own research on bamboo reforestation.

Nattawut Loisa produced a story on a community in Mae Chaem District that is diversifying and investing in community enterprises to turn bamboo into a cash crop. 

“I could learn about forestry and quality-oriented production processes and techniques,” Loisa adds. He subsequently published a story for RECOFTC on a community in Mae Chaem District that is diversifying and investing in community enterprises to turn bamboo into a cash crop.  

Other journalists also reported on their new understanding of forestry issues, producing 13 articles and two videos.