Saturday, May 15, 2010

Journalists in the midst of Thailand's Unrest

Veteran photographer for The Nation, Chaiwat Phumpuang, is evacuated after being shot in the leg

The Nation reports on the injury of one of their photographers:
Chaiwat, an award-winning lensman who has worked on many political crises including 'Black May' in 1992, was shot in the leg while recording the action in the Rajprarop area, which has been declared by the military as a "live firing zone". A bullet smashed a bone and he ended up being sent to Phya Thai 1 hospital. He had just come back to work a few weeks after suffering partial paralysis.


Chaiwat is the fourth journalist casualty in the latest rampage. On Friday three journalists from France 24, Matichon and Voice TV were wounded in clashes between government forces and protesters.
Andrew Marshall has some advice for journalists in Bangkok:
Three journalists were among the dozens of people injured in today’s violence in Bangkok. Courtesy of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT)—which lies inside the Red Shirt protest site at Rajaprasong—here are some safety tips for reporters working in this increasingly dangerous city. I should stress that this is not an official FCCT comminique, but is based on advice from a security consultant. (Nor is it my advice.)

1. Consider if you really need to put yourself in the fire-zone for your story.

2. Wear light clothes, e.g. white top, light brown trousers. Avoid wearing black which is intimidating.

3. Carry a first-aid kit, spare mobile batteries. Wear Kevlar if you have it. Under a top is better as you look less official. Bicycle helmets are good for head protection as they are thick and shrapnel will have further to travel through it.

4. If you hear a blast TURN AWAY FROM IT crouch with your back to it cover your head and stay that way for several seconds. Shrapnel can travel for hundreds of metres. If you can take cover do so, but be aware that secondary bombs are often placed at the most obvious cover.

5. Keep to the footpaths. Avoid open places and shops with plate glass windows.

6. If there is gunfire take cover and observe where the line of fire is travelling. E.g., is it random, sniper fire, travelling towards you (in which case you could be the target), or near to a person who is.

7. You have more safety in crowds. They absorb blasts and shrapnel.

8. If you see something happening, people shooting, etc., and want to take a look, be sure to look behind first otherwise you may inadvertently put yourself in the line of fire of someone who is behind you.

9. Do as much as you can to make yourself look neutral. Wear a flower. Make a point of smiling at the soldiers, protesters, etc.

10. If a hand grenade lands near you (which is possible) they normally have a 3-5 second fuse. Throw yourself on the ground face-down with the soles of your feet pointing towards the blast. Wear shoes with thick soles as these will prevent the shrapnel from traveling too far up your legs. Tuck in your chin, stick your fingers in your ears and open your mouth – this will help prevent your eardrums from bursting. Wear a small rucksack. Stick a few A4 pads in it. This will help stop shrapnel.

11. Avoid wearing jewellery. If you’re near a blast, it gets turned into shrapnel and gets embedded in you.

That’s it. Stay safe out there.
Update: Why do journalists put themselves at risk? I think in many cases they do not realize that they are in danger until there's little to be done. Nick Nostitz had this experience on May 15th and provides a riveting first hand report and photos from the killing zone:
Naked terrible unbelievable fear

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