Contrasts in Community

Aboard one of the new Lufthansa airbus jets, with state-of the art seats, AC plug for my laptop and wireless Internet, this is the first time that I surf the net while flying. In one hour I will land in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Onboard wireless Internet surfing is in stark contrast with the tsunami area in suthern thailand which has no communication system at all – even now. This exacerbates the fear of the survivors who last week fled the beach area when they thought that another wave was coming. “Community radio is essential there now,” says Dr.Ubonrat Siriyuvasak, Professor of communications at Chulalongkorn University, Thailand. She is a longtime WACC member and sends greetings to her WACC colleagues in North America. Her research has focused on alternative media, documenting the dramatic improvements that can be seen when community, participative media are implemented by local initiatives. “Women’s groups, housing initiatives, democracy, these are systems that go back to the real meaning of communications,” she says.

She explains that the tsunami left the survivors in southern thailand with their spirits devastated. In parts of Surat Thani, there is no way to receive accurate, helpful information, so people in the affected areas are helpless and do not know how to plan the future. They are also deeply impacted psychologically. Communications media can help promote hope and renewed community cohesion. Reliable information calms fears and helps build community.

I recommend that sometime in the not too distant future we at WACC-North America invite Dr. Ubonrat to have conversations with us about her research work in alternative/community media. Her clear vision can help us build practical working relationships. One of the issues that should be kept in our e-mail boxes is the court battle that is continuing here in Bangkok about the attack by the government of Supinya Klangnarong, a WACC scholar, because her journalism speaks the truth.

There is much to write about, but this blog is not the space for it. My 1 ½ days in Bangkok were full of both hope and pain. I was hosted by Mr. ViramonThanthranon, business manager of the Catholic Media Office. He drove like an artist through the congested Bangkok freeways and streets.

I was also hosted and driven to various visits by Ms. Siriwan Santisakultarm, a video and TV producer who is also the current President of Signis Asia. The day following the tsunami she rushed to the affected area and worked tirelessly to provide direct help to the victims. She also took her camera and has produced a DVD containing 10 stories about the aftermath. Each story is 3 minutes. Since late January the DVD has been used in schools throughout thailand to help discuss and reflect on the tragedy. Shot entirely with a home camera, it looks really great. I told Siriwan that I would take five DVD’s with me to Houston, so if you would like to receive one, send me an email and I will ship it to you. I suggested to her that she could ask for a small donation. One of the pieces is about the various religions uniting to respond in prayer and action.

more later. have to land.
PS: I’m still overeating Thai food. ….. and loving it.
Adán

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