Thai journalists inspired to report on forest governance and social justice
Kultida Sittiluechai (Por) never imagined that the disappearing forests in the northern reaches of Thailand could ever have an impact on her city life in the central province of Pathumtani. Her perspective changed after she took part in a three-day workshop for young journalists where they exchanged views and information with forestry professionals, experienced journalists, and representatives of forest-dependent and ethnic communities.
The Young Thai Forestry Journalist 2019 Workshop, organized by RECOFTC and Raks Thai Foundation, examined the many aspects of forest management that can benefit livelihoods, foster public participation and awareness, protect ethnic rights and natural habitats, improve natural resource management and fight climate change.
“This workshop made me aware of the many challenges facing our forests and how the forests relate to all our lives,” said Sittiluechai, one of the 15 participants in the workshop. “Different stakeholders, from law enforcement authorities to local residents in remote communities, have their roles to play. As reporters, we need to gain more in-depth knowledge in order to report correct information to the public.”
Kulthida Sitthiruechai (Por) from Thammasat University, writing for The Momentum, explored how the Karen community near Kaeng Krachan National Park coexists with forests and how their lives are impacted by the National Park Acts of 1961 and 2019.
Workshop organizers selected the young journalists from more than 50 candidates across the country who are 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 voices of civil society, Indigenous Peoples, private sector and local community groups to influence forest governance in the Mekong sub-region.
At the workshop, students were introduced to staff and agencies that focus on forest management, law and policies. The participants analyzed the relationships among forests and climate change, natural resource management and the changes over time in the country’s forests.
Senior professional journalists Way Magazine editor Kowit Potisarn, BBC Thai section’s Bangkok editor Kultida Samabuddhi and The Momentum editor Chatrawee Sentanissak shared their experiences with the young journalists on media production and effective reporting on environmental issues.
After the workshop the young journalists reported on their changing perspectives on forestry issues in their communities.
Prapawin Phuttawanna (Mew) of Chiang Mai reflected on how local communities such as the Pakakayor ethnic group can help preserve forests while fostering local livelihoods.
Phuttawanna of Kasetsart University’s Faculty of Forestry was already familiar with the benefits that forests offer communities before the workshop. But her knowledge deepened after she conducted field research and talked directly with ethnic minorities. She learned that forests, politics, livelihood management, global warming and climate change are all interrelated.
“It was an eye-opening experience,” said Phuttawanna. “Classroom knowledge about forests is not enough for working in the real world. This project inspired me to learn more. I always hope that we can help make society better. Public consciousness about community rights and participatory forest management are important issues for professional reporters to understand.”
International relations student at Chulalongkorn University, Teerapat Aroonrat recognized that there is an educational and social gap between the rich and the poor. The workshop helped him to see how his interest in legal rights, land ownership and public policies has direct links with forests and he hopes these topics will be discussed further in future workshops. Aroonrat explained how he plans to highlight human rights and land reform as they relate to the National Reserved Forest Act and the Community Forest Act in the university’s environment club.
“The topic of forests, environment and politics are inseparable,” said Aroonrat. “I learned through this workshop that I am not alone in this thinking. There are many people working in the field. If we set up a network, we can be a driving force for change.”
The workshop connected him with people from other faculties and universities who share his interest in the environment and human rights-related challenges in Thailand. It inspired Aroonrat to explore how to create a youth group to raise public awareness on environmental protection with his friends and Young Forestry Journalist Fellows.
Nattawut Loisa of Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Mass Communication enjoyed conducting his research in Mae Chaem District. The field assignment from the workshop enabled him to integrate what he learned in the classroom with his own knowledge of bamboo reforestation. It highlighted the importance of integrating livelihood development into forest management and reforestation.
“I could learn about several aspects of forestry such as quality-oriented production processes and techniques,” said Loisa. “By discussing with editors about how to add value to my classroom knowledge, I could look more broadly for media production ideas and how to enhance my scriptwriting through online courses.”
Thailand country program director at RECOFTC Warangkana Rattanarat (Nok) inspired the young journalists to dig deeply into forest issues: “Whatever media you are working with in the future, I hope this activity helped you understand the importance of reporting on forests and the environment. Media should work from facts and have an understanding of forestry and forest management to avoid reporting on myths or outdated knowledge. You can create public understanding, based on new knowledge, through your reports. I hope young journalists will come up with creative media products that can lead to that change.”
The Young Forestry Journalist Fellows produced 13 articles and two videos after the workshop.
This story is produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its content are the sole responsibility of RECOFTC and RaksThai and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union. To find out more about this and other activities under the EU-funded Voices for Mekong Forests, visit the project page.
RECOFTC's work is made possible with the continuous support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).