While some logistical decisions remain, the new network will deliver programming to Deep South residents in their native language, giving the Thai Muslim there a voice and a media of their making. This is the latest sign that Thailand is changing its long held people of Bangkok character of dominance against non Bangkok Thais.
By Rapee Mama for Khabar Southeast Asia in Narathiwat
Thai Muslims are reacting favourably to a cabinet decision last month to establish a 24-hour satellite television network for broadcasting Malay-language programming across the Deep South. Public Relations Department Director General Apinan Juntarungsri ahead of last month’s meeting in Yala. Apinan and other officials resolved at the meeting to establish a 24-hour TV network entirely in Malay to serve Deep South viewers. Public Relations Department Director General Apinan Juntarungsri ahead of last month’s meeting in Yala. Apinan and other officials resolved at the meeting to establish a 24-hour TV network entirely in Malay to serve Deep South viewers. [Photo courtesy SBPAC]
Government Public Relations Department Director General Apinan Juntarungsri discussed relevant issues at an October meeting in Yala with other officials, including Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre (SBPAC) Secretary General Tawee Sodsong, National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commissioner Peerapong Manakit, and local Muslim leaders. SBPAC will play the lead role in ensuring that the programming meets local needs. The Yala office of the National Broadcasting Services of Thailand (NBT) airs a terrestrial television service in Malay, but only for eight hours daily and within a limited coverage area.
“The establishment of a 24-hour television station follows the government’s desires to provide around-the-clock services to local residents of the southern border provinces, as well as to increase understanding and disseminate a variety of information to local people, including news entertainment, sports, religion and cultural events,” Apinan told Khabar Southeast Asia.
“After announcing this policy, the government assigned SBPAC and NBT to work together with respected local leaders, academics and others with specialised knowledge to work out the details of the project in such a way that they bring maximum benefit to local residents.”
Experts debated whether to use the standard version of Malay or the local Pattani version, which developed in relative isolation and is hard for Malaysian and Indonesian speakers to understand. “It will be important that the station managers as well as the reporters have a basic understanding first and work together on a committee with Muslim religious leaders, discussing all matters in detail to make sure the Malay language station develops in a stable way,” Confederation of Islamic Councils Chairman Abdulrahman Abdulsamad said.
“If they can really manage to do that, many benefits will result because Islamic teaching branches out into so many areas, such as law, public administration, commerce and business, science, astronomy and others,” he added. He said that real success would come only if news producers and station managers provided high-quality shows and news reports with broad appeal to potential viewers, 90% of whom will be Muslim. “These television channels will open up new opportunities for local people to be able to view problems from a broader perspective, whether they are lifestyle, cultural or religious matters,” Abdulrahman said. He encouraged the use of some standard Malay in programming, “because everyone will hear it and learn it, and the transmissions could be understood by those across the border”.
Hamika Sooleng, of Manang Tayor subdistrict in Narathiwat’s provincial capital district, said, “Nowadays everyone here uses both Malay and Thai to communicate, so opening a Malay-language television station will be a real accomplishment for local people, so it should meet their needs. “They should give local people a chance to have some input. After it is in operation, they should have a review process put in place to deal with any problems. I think it will be good if it is transparent and gives the local community a say.” (Source)
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