The changing ‘face’ of the media landscape in the Mekong region is eliciting both excitement and fear from observers and professionals alike.

By Lynette Lee Corporal*

CHIANG MAI, Thailand, Dec 9 (IPS/TerraViva) – The changing ‘face’ of the media landscape in the Mekong region is eliciting both excitement and fear from observers and professionals alike.

The growing power of new media and citizen journalism, the increased involvement of civil society organisations in the dissemination of information, and the often conflicting issues between perceived image and the actual ‘media product’ are just some of the issues tackled in the Mekong Media Forum, being held here from Dec. 9 to 12.

In a session titled ‘Shifts in the Media Landscape’, both journalists and academics underscored the need for more cooperation and vigilance if all Mekong countries — comprising Burma, Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam — are to see more confluence rather than divergence and if they are to be viewed by the international media sans western lenses.

Chinese journalist Li Gun cited China’s efforts toward this end.

After the international controversy brought about by the much-maligned Beijing 2008 Olympic torch relay that trained the global spotlight on the Chinese government’s human rights policies, the state began to pursue a ‘media makeover’.

“China is employing a top-down approach in its aim to expand its international media influence,” said Lin Gu, a freelance journalist from Beijing and a former fellow of the ‘Imaging Our Mekong’ training programme for journalists that IPS Asia-Pacific and Probe Media Foundation have been implementing since 2002.

Lin Gu was referring to the Chinese government’s efforts to ’soften’ the country’s image in light of international criticism about its stance on political issues involving Tibet and Burma.

“After the 2008 Olympics, the Chinese government thought hard as it realised its need to expand its media influence,” added the two-time awardee of the Asia Development Bank Institute’s Developing Asia Journalism Award. “This attempts to “offer a Chinese perspective of Chinese affairs.”

Other developments that indicate China’s push for a space to air its view of the world include the launch in April 2009 the English-language newspaper ‘Global Times’. Continue reading “The changing ‘face’ of the media landscape in the Mekong region is eliciting both excitement and fear from observers and professionals alike.”

SOUTH-EAST ASIA: Chinese Dams Expose Fault Line in Mekong Region

By Marwaan Macan-Markar

CHIANG MAI, Thailand, Dec 9 (IPS) – A heated debate about the future of the Mekong River at a media conference in this northern Thai city exposed a fault line triggered by the regional giant China’s plans to build a cascade of dams on the upper stretches of South-east Asia’s largest waterway.

“The most important issue for people who live along the banks (of the lower stretches) of the Mekong are the dams and how these affect them,” said Pipope Pantichpakdi, a Thai filmmaker who made the documentary ‘Mekong: The Untamed’. “They cannot see the river as a pretty sight.”

Another documentary film about the Mekong made by Chinese filmmakers overlooked some serious issues, he added during a session on contrasting perspectives of the river at the Mekong Media Forum. “There was nothing about a lot of villages disappearing, that there are floods and the doubts people have about the Chinese dams.”

His views were echoed by Manote Tripathi, the scriptwriter of the hour-long synthesis of the 10-hour Thai documentary series. “A number of countries are becoming aware of the consequences of the mega-projects,” he told some 200 participants at the forum, which runs from Dec. 9-12 in this northern city of Thailand.

A Chinese journalist on the panel conceded that the planned development targeting the Mekong would provoke a range of responses. “It is natural that different people will have different perspectives on similar issues,” said Zhu Yan, a senior editor at the national broadcaster China Central Television. “In China there is a debate (around the question) of environment or dams.”

Tan Keng Ooi, a journalist based in Laos, confirmed that the feelings of the countries in the Mekong River Basin towards China were shared. He said Laos was already feeling the impact of the Chinese dams due to sudden fluctuations of the water level near the capital Vientiane, he raged.

Similar sentiments from the people in Vietnam were captured in the film ‘Mekong: The Untamed’ screened to participants at the forum organised by IPS Asia-Pacific and Probe Media Foundation, a Manila-based media educator. Continue reading “SOUTH-EAST ASIA: Chinese Dams Expose Fault Line in Mekong Region”

Human Rights for Migrant Domestic Workers

Thu, 10/12/2009 – 00:24
KUALA LUMPUR, 10 Dec 2009: As the world marks International Human Rights Day today, CARAM Asia launches an online petition campaign seeking crucial support and commitment from every employer of households to grant a weekly paid day off to their migrant domestic worker (MDW). From today onwards, the online campaign will be featured for 30 days on the major media online sites based in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, and the Middle East:






A simple click is all is needed to grant a basic fundamental right to one of the most vulnerable group of human beings today..:

On this occasion of International Human Rights Day, CARAM Asia a regional network of 34 NGOs and trade unions across 17 countries in Asia, makes the call to governments across the globe to respect the rights and dignity of migrant workers especially domestic workers.

We urge governments especially host countries that employ migrant labour to amend restrictive legislation to include provisions and minimum labour standards for domestic workers.

We further call upon all employers, as important non state actors, to recognize that the time has come to put all poor practices aside and accord migrant workers, especially domestic workers (MDWs) a weekly paid day off from work.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that there are more than a million women who engage in domestic work worldwide. There are over 300,000 MDWs in Malaysia, about 70,000 in Bahrain, and the more than 200,000 respectively in Singapore, Thailand and Lebanon. Continue reading “Human Rights for Migrant Domestic Workers”

UNSC urged to investigate junta’s ‘Crime against Humanity’

Thursday, 10 December 2009 22:01

New Delhi (Mizzima) – On International Human Rights Day, 442 Members of Parliament from 29 countries on Thursday urged the United Nations Security Council to set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the Burmese military junta’s ‘Crimes against Humanity’.

MPs from Asia, Europe, North and South America in a letter urged the Security Council to set up a commission of inquiry to investigate ‘Crimes against Humanity’ and ‘War Crimes’ committed by Burma’s military rulers and to impose a global arms embargo against the regime.

The letter sent by Japanese MPs Azuma Konno and Tadashi Inuzuka, who are members of the House of Councillors, the National Diet of Japan, and endorsed by 442 MPs across the globe, was addressed to the UNSC’s President Ambassador Michel Kafando, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and members of the Security Council.

The Burmese military regime has been committing widespread and systematic crimes including the killing of thousands of its own civilians and widespread rape of ethnic women, forced displacement of over one million refugees and internally displaced persons, recruiting tens of thousands of child soldiers, and using modern day slave labour, the MPs said in the letter. Continue reading “UNSC urged to investigate junta’s ‘Crime against Humanity’”

New Zealand MPs back call for UN Security Council to investigate crimes against humanity in Burma

Investigate crimes against humanity in Burma

Thursday, 10 December 2009, 2:15 pm
Press Release: New Zealand Labour Party
10 December 2009
Media Statement

New Zealand MPs back call for UN Security Council to investigate crimes against humanity in Burma

A significant number of New Zealand MPs are joining the call to urge the UN Security Council to launch an investigation into crimes against humanity committed by the military regime in Burma, says Labour MP Maryan Street.

“They are joining over 400 Members of Parliament from 29 countries around the world in the call for the council to launch the investigation and to impose a global arms embargo on that regime.
“Today is International Human Rights Day and is a particularly appropriate time to acknowledge the need for such action, which is long overdue,” says Maryan Street, who chairs the Cross-Party Parliamentary Group on Burma.

“So far 23 New Zealand MPs, including Labour Leader Phil Goff and many of my Labour colleagues, have signed the letter to the UN Security Council. MPs from the Green Party and the Maori Party have also signed.

“Burma’s military regime has carried out brutal attacks on its own people for decades. According to the Thailand Burma Border Consortium, a humanitarian agency providing aid to Burmese refugees and displaced persons for 25 years, the regime has destroyed over 3,500 ethnic minority villages in Eastern Burma since 1996.

“At least 75,000 people were forced to leave their homes during the past year alone and more than half a million people remain internally displaced.

“These crimes are well documented by UN bodies, yet no effective action has been taken.

“It’s time for the United Nations to act and act quickly,” Maryan Street says.

Thai-Cambodian row may affect ASEAN Community

BANGKOK, 9 December 2009 (NNT) – The ASEAN Secretary General expresses his concern over the Thai-Cambodian dispute, saying that the issue may affect the establishment of the ASEAN Community in 2015 and its credibility.

Mr Surin Pitsuwan, ASEAN Secretary General, is worried that the ongoing diplomatic row between Thailand and Cambodia may put the general image of ASEAN into disrepute. He said if the problem is not solved quickly it would affect the ASEAN Community establishment in 2015 as well as diminishing their negotiating power in the global arena.

Speaking about the case of Mr Sivarak Chutipong – the Thai engineer who was yesterday sentenced to a 7 year jail term by the Cambodian Court on espionage charges, Mr Surin added that it was a matter for the justice systems of each country. He urged both countries to deal with the issue with patience and to avoid creating further conflicts. ASEAN is ready to provide any assistance upon request, the ASEAN Secretary General said.

Mr Sivarak Chutipong was arrested in November under the accusation that he provided to the Thai consular in Phnom Penh the flight schedule of the ousted ex-Thai PM Thaksin Shinnawatra who was appointed as an advisor to the Cambodian government.

Thailand to register migrant children

Dec 10, 2009 (DVB)–Children of migrant workers from Burma, Laos and Cambodia will soon be registered by the Thai government and eligible to enroll in school, migrant organisations have announced.

The process is already underway in a number of towns on Thailand’s border with Burma, and Thai government officials are reportedly collecting lists of migrant children to ready for registration.
To register the children, parents must hold migrant workers identification cards or migrant registration forms.
There are estimated to be between two and three million Burmese migrants in Thailand, most of whom work in low-skilled labour industries, such as fishing and construction, with little pay.
The deadline for registration is 18 December. A Burmese migrant in Bangkok told DVB that he had already submitted applications for his two children. Continue reading “Thailand to register migrant children”