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Mae Wong battle goes online

Social media buzzing with campaign against Nakhon Sawan Dam project

SOCIAL MEDIA is playing a key role in the battle waged by local residents against construction of the Mae Wong Dam in Nakhon Sawan. Over the past two weeks, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have been buzzing with messages, photos, info-graphics and video posted by anti-Mae Wong Dam campaigners.

The campaign was initiated by the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation when its secretary-general Sasin Chalermlarp began a protest march, walking the 388 kilometres from Mae Wong to Bangkok.

The 12-day march ended with a rally in Bangkok on Sunday, but the battle against the dam is continuing through social media, where support for the campaign is growing.

At the forefront of the online protest are the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation sites at https://www.facebook.com/SeubNakhasathienFD and Instagram/beubfd.

Among its key supporters are author Chiranan Pitpreecha, the 1989 SEA Write Award winner and leading figure of the 1970s student movement, and her son, Wannasingh Prasertkul. Both have shown their strong opposition to the Mae Wong Dam, both online and at the protest rally.

Academics have also added to the growing anti-dam campaign on the Net. Many of its supporters have changed their profile photo on Facebook so that it reads "NO DAM", while the number of "Likes" for the protest's activities is large and growing.

A video publicising the campaign, created by the College of Social Communication Innovation, Srinakharinwirot University, has been viewed more than 82,000 times since being posted on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PPFxcPotvA) in September last year.

Activists argue that the mainstream media has paid little attention to the Mae Wong Dam project and the harm it would cause to residents and the environment, which is why they launched the social-media campaign.

The added bonus in terms of publicity is that the reach of social media is not limited to Thailand. The powerful and borderless online campaigning is now being seen by people around the world.

The 388km march by Seub Nakhasathien Foundation's Chalermlarp has ended, but the protest is still going strong. Social media is now its main channel of communication, reaching out beyond the Mae Wong community and gathering supporters from Thailand and farther afield.

The campaign against the Mae Wong Dam is just one more example of how the public is now being empowered by information from alternative channels, without having to wait for the mainstream media to catch up.


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