"Hari suara kita" - from now on, we have "our voice".
That’s what the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre (SBPAC) will tell local residents from today in the predominantly Malay-speaking region – that they will have television programming in their own language for at least 30 minutes a day initially.
SBPAC Secretary-General Thawee Sodsong hoped the new TV broadcast via satellite would help illustrate that Thailand is no longer a mono-cultural society, but has plural cultures in the deep South – with the ethnic Malay, Muslim majority having a TV channel presenting programmes in Malay.
People in the southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat have long been forced to learn the Thai language, which has been for more than a century the sole official language since this country modernised its education system.
Cultural and historical grievances have caused uprisings and armed struggle in the province over the past century. The current wave of violence erupted in early 2004, claiming some 5,000 lives since then.
The SBPAC’s TV station is not the first Malay-speaking station in the deep South. Three stations – Channel 5, Channel 11 and Thai PBS – present programmes in Malay, but they are not popular.
The launch there of a new television station by the state authority is regarded as a tool for Bangkok and Malay-speaking natives to communicate with each other and to relieve frustration.
Televised via C-band satellite since January 1, the station is on-air only 30 minutes (8-8.30pm) a day for now. But it will run 24-hour programming within six months or a year.
The SBPAC has also been running 24-hour radio programmes and allowed joint productions by local producers.
Programme content includes Islamic religious affairs, education and sport, voice from locals, economics and living standards, talk shows on a southern peace solution, culture, tourism and general news.
Media producers under the SBPAC’s network will be allowed to participate in making programmes that reflect the voices of local people.
The SBPAC’s public relations department will produce programmes on the economy, livelihood development and government policy.
“We intend to make both television and radio as people’s stations, with real participation from local people,” said Piya Kittavon, deputy secretary-general of the SBPAC.
Local residents said it’s better tohave more Malay-language television in the deep South. “As it is Malay-language television, their producers should be Malayu [ethnic Malays] who speak to their Malayu audience,” said community leader Ibrahem Muhammadseng from Pattani’s Ko Pho district. “We would have a channel to tell the truth.”