Burmese, Thai Journalists Welcome INSI Hostile Environment Training

BANGKOK,Thailand– Twenty-four Burmese and 18 Thai frontline journalists completed a two-and-a-half-day hostile environment, first aid and trauma awareness training organized by the International News Safety Institute (INSI) last December9 to 12in Chiang Mai in the country’s north and December 17 to 19 in Prachinburi province.

 The back-to-back training activities, which emphasized detecting and avoiding surveillance for the Burmese and covering riots and demonstrations for the Thais, were welcomed by the journalists as “very important, useful, and timely considering recent developments in our countries.”   

 The Burmese who participated in the Chiang Mai training were composed of reporters, mid-level editors, and photographers working insideMyanmar.  They said this is the kind of training they needed given the constraints they face as journalists on a day-to-day basis in their country.

 “Now we would know if we are being shadowed and what to do when we do cover street riots,” said one female reporter.  They requested that their names not be used in reports or stories. There were 12 female and 12 male participants.

 At least three of the journalists have previously been arrested by authorities for taking pictures of, or interviewing people about, the monk-led uprisings in 2009.

 The trauma awareness session INSI was able to squeeze in despite the tight schedule showed that a number of the Burmese participants are suffering from stress or stress-related symptoms. 

 The Thais, on the other hand, regretted not having had the training earlier as it could have helped them and many of their colleagues who covered the recent Red Shirt riots inBangkok.  But still, they said they found the practical exercises like first aid and CPR, checkpoint and abduction scenarios, riots and civil disturbances simulation “exciting and easy to remember and full of learning points.”

 Co-organized with the Thai Journalists Association (TJA), the training was attended by reporters, editors, camera crews, and photographers including two senior reporters fromSouthern Thailandone of whom had been seriously injured by a secondary blast in a roadside bombing he was covering.

 He said: “Had I undergone this kind of training a long time ago I probably would not have been injured.”

 Like the Burmese, the Thais also felt the need for a follow-through hostile environment training with a full session on stress and trauma.  Initial discussions about plans to organize this in 2011 have been made between INSI, TJA and the Peace and Conflict Journalism Network (PECOJON) inBangkok. 

 The INSI team was composed of INSI certified trainers from thePhilippinesled by Red Batario together with Chino Gaston of GMA 7 News, Froilan Gallardo of MindaNews, and Charlie Saceda, INSI safety adviser who also represents PECOJON.  Ronald Aung Naing, an INSI certified trainer fromBurma, did the interpretation during the training for the Burmese in Chiang Mai.