The content in this page ("Opinions of the rural poor have always been ignored" by Pravit Rojanaphruk, The Nation) is not produced by Prachatai staff. Prachatai merely provides a platform, and the opinions stated here do not necessarily reflect those of Prachatai.

Opinions of the rural poor have always been ignored

Two weeks after the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) occupied Government House and plunged the Kingdom into political crisis, the views of ordinary people - especially the rural poor - have been conspicuously absent from media reports. They have largely not been heard from in any substantial way.

On the other hand, the views of academics, political and social activists, politicians and generals have been sought repeatedly on a daily basis.

What has happened to the opinions of the 70 per cent of the population who are not members of the middle class and elite?

Why have they been left out and treated as mere spectators or even excluded from expressing views about the political conflict by both broadcast and print media in general?

Should this be a surprise considering the majority of people working in journalism are members of the middle class and that all major newspapers and television stations are based in Bangkok? There are no provincial or regional newspapers of substance - or if there are, none is being quoted by the Bangkok-based papers and television stations, so their views do not count. Such is the deep divide in the nation and the hegemony of Bangkok.

The little space for SMS messages sent to television stations and some Internet sites cannot compensate for the gross exclusion of the majority of the population from debating politics. To make matters worse, most Thai-language newspapers allot very meagre space for letters to the editor to be published. It is as if these editors prefer a one-way centre-to-periphery form of communication or indoctrination, depending on how one looks at it.

Even Thai PBS (now Thai TV), a publicly funded television channel, still interviews mostly academics and the middle class upcountry.

This bias is reflected in the PAD's proposed "new politics", where it is suggested that 70 per cent of MPs should be appointed instead of elected. There's a saying that rural people decide who forms a government through elections (because they constitute the majority of voters), but Bangkokians decide whether to overthrow it or not. If the "new politics" is introduced, Bangkokians will also decide who will comprise the government.

The double standard is also reflected in the present campaign for the Bangkok governor election. There is virtually no debate in the media as to why Thailand's other 75 provinces should still continue to accept appointed governors from the Interior Ministry in Bangkok.

The double standard, bias and exclusion are there, and hardly any media question them.

Given such tendencies, it is no surprise the PAD can come up with a self-centred and self-righteous 70-30 formula for their "new politics" and not feel ashamed.

The Bangkok-based media's policy of ignoring the diverse views of the majority of the population is also a form of "new politics", although there's nothing new about it, because it has been going on for decades, ever since the mass media were introduced to Thailand.

More diverse views can help the Kingdom think about how to solve the current crisis, however. These views ought to be heard and engaged. The middle class and elite can go on debating among themselves through the media and write countless articles, but what good will that do when the majority of people are excluded? This cannot be good for society as a whole.

But perhaps the middle class and elite are so used to treating those below them like they would talk to their driver, maid, waiter or sex worker.

There's no excuse for the media not to rectify the situation, unless they stop calling themselves the "mass media". At present, they are like Bangkok's mass-transit Skytrain and subway systems: calling themselves "mass" but actually more for the middle class, as the rest cannot afford the tickets.


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