Award-Winning Documentary Examines Conflict in Southern Thailand

Documentary team poses for a picture with the award
The Thai PBS team won an award for a series of documentaries about conflict in Southern Thailand (credit: Thai PBS)

Thai PBS won the 2012 Sangchai Sunthornwat news documentary award for a film series about conflict in Thailand’s southern provinces. An insurgency, without clearly stated aims, has plagued the region since 2004, claiming more than 5,000 lives.

The documentary series, “Cleavage in the Southern Provinces,” was produced in collaboration with Internews staff, who for months provided on-going training and mentoring of the 15 member team. “In the training, foreign trainers came to exchange ideas and introduce new perspectives on documentary production,” said Darin Klong-ugkara, the team leader. “We planned the project together, studied all the relevant information, went into the field for several months to do production works, and finally edited the reports.”

The documentaries looked at a variety of aspects of the conflict in the south where an ethnic-Malay minority has struggled to find its place in Thai society. The documentaries analyzed the impact on the conflict of major human rights cases, such as the Tak Bai Massacre and the disappearance of Human Rights lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit. They also investigated prejudice towards Southerners among Thai society and the impact of education on the shaping of identities in the South. 

Sonthiya Keawkam, a news reporter in the Southern region, saw this project as an example of collaboration between the central news team and the regional television team. “One thing we are proud of is the fact that although we worked in a highly dangerous zone, everyone in the team said that they were ready to pursue the project without any hesitation.”

“I live in the area, so I see that for over ten years, problems in the Southern provinces remain,” he added. “But at least, the work we did gives a chance for local voices to be heard. It shows that news is not limited to Bangkok only; we are connected to many other areas and everyone works together towards a common goal.”

The Sangchai Sunthornwat Awards is one of Thailand’s most prestigious awards for news and news documentary. This is the first year Thai PBS has been honored at the awards in the documentary film category.   

Internews and Internews Europe’s work in Thailand is supported by the US Agency for International Development and the European Commission.

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