Credible news vital for public debate: ST editor

In an increasingly complex world with misinformation on the rise, journalists play a crucial role in providing reliable information to support reasoned debate.

That is why the work that professional newsrooms do, in fact-checking and ensuring a balanced, objective and unvarnished account of events, is so important, said Mr Warren Fernandez, editor of The Straits Times, on Sept 28.

“While the world is more connected today and more people have much more information available at their fingertips, the irony is that societies are not necessarily better informed or equipped to make the difficult choices we need to if we are going to address the many challenges we face,” he said in opening remarks at the Real News Matters journalism forum, which marked World News Day with a series of discussions.

World News Day celebrates the work of professional news organisations and their impact and aims to raise public awareness of the role that journalists play in providing credible and reliable news and views.

Mr Fernandez said that sensible, democratic discussions cannot happen in the absence of credible and reliable information.

“Instead, discussions turn into shouting matches, which tend to be dominated by those with the loudest, most nasty or persistent – or often, the best financed – voices,” said Mr Fernandez, who is also editor-in-chief of Singapore Press Holdings’ English, Malay and Tamil Media Group, and president of the World Editors Forum, the network for editors within the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (Wan-Ifra).

“Each one of us ends up the loser – it is your views, your society, your future that is degraded in the process.”

He also warned of the rise of fake news, with dubious content spreading over phones and social media.

ST’s Asia News Network editor Shefali Rekhi led an educational session on fighting fake news, which included practical tips on how to spot tell-tale signs of misinformation.

The audience participated actively in asking questions, which ranged from how to deal with the speed at which fake news spreads, to how askST, part of the publication’s efforts to fight fake news, deals with the volume of requests.

The forum was held at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College Central and jointly organised by Wan-Ifra and the National Youth Achievement Award Council.

The event, which saw around 100 attendees, including students, journalists and members of the public, also featured two panels on the impact of journalism.

One of them was titled It Changed My Life, named after an award-winning series by ST senior writer Wong Kim Hoh, who was one of the panellists.

The other panellists were Dr Mustafa Izzuddin, a research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Institute of South Asian Studies, who talked about the relationship between academics and the media; and ITE College Central student Javier Ng, who shared how the media helped in his anti-drug advocacy.

The panel was moderated by Ms Alysha Chandra, editor-in-chief of The Octant, a Yale-NUS College student publication.

The other panel was made up of participants from the Asia Journalism Fellowship, who spoke about covering conflict.

Ms Kalani Kumarasinghe, features editor at Sri Lanka’s The Daily Mirror, shared about the chaos caused by the bomb attacks that left more than 250 dead on Easter Sunday, shattering a decade of relative peace.

“Imagine this. You are trying to interpret the bomb scare, and then there are fake news tweets coming up about bombs (going off)… Even within our newsroom we were panicking because we saw a tweet saying there was a bomb right across our office,” she said.

With her were Mr Maran Htoi Aung, editor of Myanmar’s Kachin Waves, who spoke about the difficulty of gathering information and providing a balanced account on the conflict in his home state of Kachin; and Ms Victoria Tulad, senior news correspondent at GMA Network, who spoke about her work in covering Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

Said Ms Tulad: “It is a privilege to witness history, but it is also our responsibility to make sure it is not forgotten.”

Mr Koh Jun Jie, 18, said he learnt a lot from the forum and was inspired by some of the stories.

“I have a better knowledge of world events and what being a journalist involves,” said the Year 2 ITE College East student.

Why the news matters to you and me

Day by day, our fast-changing world grows more complex, confusing and challenging.

The United States is at odds with China. The planet is getting warmer faster. Technology is disrupting just about every industry, from banks and money changers, to airlines, travel agents and the media.

Little wonder then that we all need some help keeping up to speed with these changes, making sense of them all, and trying to figure out where things are heading.

Pressed for time in dealing with information overload, people are also finding it harder to sift out what is real from fake, with more and more dubious content swirling around, spread rapidly over new communications technologies.

So, ironically, while the world is more connected today and more people have much more information readily available at their fingertips, societies are not necessarily better informed or equipped to make the tough choices needed if we are to address the many challenges we face.

Instead, the credibility of and trust in major institutions seem to be insidiously chipped away amid the welter of information and disinformation, facts and alternative facts, thereby undermining our ability to have sensible democratic discussions on the way forward.

This is where journalists and professional newsrooms come in.

Our job is to seek out information, cross-check and verify it, understand the history, background and context, strive to be balanced and objective, analyse and interpret developments, and seek to put out as fair and unvarnished an account of events as we can, to help our audiences make up their minds on what it all means for them.

This matters. Because in the absence of credible and reliable information, we cannot have rational and reasonable debates. Instead, discussions turn into shouting matches, which tend to be dominated, and won, by those with the loudest, most nasty or persistent – or often, the best financed – voices.

Every one of us ends up the loser – it is your views, your society, your future that is degraded in the process.

So, yes, it matters. This is why the theme for this year’s World News Day is simply: Real News Matters.

The video to promote it intones: It matters. Facts Matter. Accuracy matters. Objectivity matters. Balance matters. Accountability matters. Equality matters. History matters. News matters.

It is commonplace today to say, rather glibly, that news is available for free, every one is a journalist, and there is no future for journalism.

That, to me, is an example of fake news.

News you receive is never free. Content costs money to produce, especially quality, credible, in-depth, reliable content. If you are getting it for free, it usually means someone is paying for it, and getting it to you for a reason.

Perhaps it is to sell you some marketing message or propaganda. It could be to influence your views or spending preferences. It could be to sway your vote, or shape your society. In other words, you, and the data about you, is the product being traded and sold.

So, indeed, it does matter.

This is why we are marking World News Day (WND) today.

Some 38 newsrooms from around the world have come together to celebrate the work of professional journalists and the difference it can make.

In this special report – and our website at – you will find a host of compelling stories of how journalists and newsrooms have worked to help improve public policy, expose corruption, fight sexual abuse, harassment and discrimination, address major issues of the day, and also inspire and uplift communities.

This global collaboration is led by the World Editors Forum and the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (Wan-Ifra).

We are building on the efforts of the Canadian Journalism Foundation, which launched a WND project in Canada last year.

We hope to keep growing this effort to make WND an annual celebration around the world, to showcase how journalists and newsrooms contribute to the societies they are meant to serve.

The writer is also president of the World Editors Forum, a global network of editors, which is part of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (Wan-Ifra).

How newsrooms made an impact in society

Thirty-eight newsrooms. Forty-seven stories. Making an impact that has been felt far and wide.

Editors and journalists in newsrooms around the world have come together to showcase some of the work they do and the effort that goes into producing stories that make a difference to the lives of people in their communities.

This is to mark World News Day today, which celebrates journalism and the importance of credible news that matters.

Through this, the aim is to inspire and motivate other news organisations to continue their efforts, despite the tumult experienced by media titles in an era of social media.

Newsrooms have pulled out their most impactful works to share with readers around the world.

These stories have shaped policies, exposed corruption and fought injustice, with reports from the ground tackling issues of significance to the communities.

Through this, the aim is to inspire and motivate other news organisations to continue their efforts, despite the tumult experienced by media titles in an era of social media.

Newsrooms have pulled out their most impactful works to share with readers around the world.

These stories have shaped policies, exposed corruption and fought injustice, with reports from the ground tackling issues of significance to the communities.

Bangladesh’s The Daily Star highlighted its stories on frequent accidents from fire in its capital’s densely populated commercial zones, which are lined with decrepit buildings, built long before fire prevention norms became the rule.

Lives have been lost and business disrupted. The stories forced the government into action.

German daily Suddeutsche Zeitung shared its explosive expose with German news magazine Der Spiegel earlier this year that led to the fall of the ruling government.

Austria goes to the polls tomorrow. The report recounts a sting operation in July 2017, three months before Austrian elections that year, which was videotaped.

It showed the leader of Austria’s far right Freedom Party, and the deputy mayor of Vienna at the time, meeting a woman in Spain who claimed to be the niece of a Russian multimillionaire and offered him campaign support in return for public contracts.

The politician, Mr Heinz-Christian Strache, later rose to become the country’s vice-chancellor. But the video’s release earlier this year, and the reports, led to his downfall.

“The newspaper paid no money for the material,” a representative from Suddeutsche said in its submission for World News Day. “And neither did Der Spiegel, according to the magazine.”

Brazil’s Zero Hora has an investigative report on how retirees in their country were being charged for insurance that they did not sign up for. It took the paper’s team close to two months to expose the scam.

And Fiji Sun, a daily newspaper in the South Pacific nation, submitted a story on how an online message posted by a Fijian living in Australia warning of unrest on Sept 23 generated

Many Fijians have not forgotten the political turmoil that divided the nation in the past.

But checks, and a message from The Republic of Fiji Military Forces Land Force Commander, Colonel Manoa Gadai, on Sept 18, effectively quashed the speculation.

Singapore’s The Straits Times submitted three stories written in the past 18 months that influenced public policy. These were senior health correspondent Salma Khalik’s article on how a dogged 84-year-old shook up the country’s health system, senior correspondent Joyce Lim’s report on public health institutions paying foreign agents to refer patients and senior writer Wong Kim Hoh’s inspiring profile of a former flight attendant who became paralysed after an accident but who now helps others find their feet. The paper also shares its continuing effort to fight fake news.

These and several other contributions made by contributing newsrooms can be read on the World News Day site,, from today.

The idea to mark a day to celebrate journalism in this part of the world took shape at an inaugural meeting of the World Editors Forum, Asia chapter, in May, when editors from 15 newsrooms met in Singapore on the sidelines of the Wan-Ifra Publish Asia 2019 conference.

Taking up the idea, Bangladesh Daily Star’s editor and publisher Mahfuz Anam said that with the challenges posed by social media, newsrooms should showcase what they do and the impact they make, operating with the professional standards and ethics honed over decades.

Indonesian Antara’s Meidyatama Suryodiningrat also noted that media literacy is more vital than ever, and the next generation needs to be educated about journalism.

The group picked Sept 28 as the day to mark WND, as Sept 28 coincides with the United Nations’ International Day for Universal Access to Information.

Good journalism no longer appeals to readers?

Having been in journalism for so long, a question that I have always been asked is: what is news, and what makes “good journalism”?

For a long time, I thought that the question was rather interesting.

Good journalism should be what is most ideal for journalism.

The entire journalistic system and production chain – from the tips received, to reporting, editing and publishing – have all been operating impartially within the most ethical and professional journalistic framework.

Additionally, good journalism should be about inspiring the readers.

This is done by exposing and rectifying acts of corruption, overseeing government operations, and voicing out injustices within our society.

To become a watchdog the villains will dread. This is the most ideal scenario in journalism.

Although I don’t think I have penned any good stories throughout my journalistic career, I consistently instil these philosophies in my students, so that these journalists-to-be will have a very clear idea of their future obligations.

Of course, it is beyond my control whether they will eventually put this into practice one day, because to be honest, I do not think today’s media industry and audience are capable of digesting such a profound ideal.

Take Malaysia for instance. The readers here are very much more attracted to sensational news characterised by violent or explicit content.

As the audience is more inclined to such news and reporting, local mass media increasingly carry stories violence and conflict.

As a former journalist and now a media education worker, it has never crossed my mind that orthodox journalism should be led by the nose or by audience preferences.

Content presentation and headlining are becoming more sensational too, in a bid to capture the attention of a new generation of readers.

By academic standards, such content is the exact opposite of what makes good journalism, . It is also what we could label as “bad journalism”.

This phenomenon of sensationalised news gained traction following the rise of social media, especially since any individual can build his or her own media brand.

The entire information market has inevitably plunged into a whirlpool of vicious competition, making it harder for regulators to control the quality of news.

As a result, large numbers of content farms, plagiarists and fake news factories come into being.

In other words, today’s information market is not only inundated with bad journalism, but also plagued with “fake news” and “headline news”.

Such articles are fact- distorting, plagiarised, excessively sensational, exaggerated and inappropriately headlined.

Sadly, these are the stories that command the most attention on the social media. And most importantly, such audience engagement appeals tremendous to online advertisers.

Media organisations in Malaysia are confronting unprecedented challenges arising from such a trend.

Against such a backdrop, orthodox good journalism has become increasingly unattractive to the audience under the powerful siege of bad journalism.

Sure enough, some may argue that the current political climate has somewhat contributed to the unpopularity of good journalism, too.

For instance, Singapore has enforced a quasi-authoritarian approach to information management.

Content that is perceived to be seditious, overly sensational and exaggerated will come under the watchful eyes of the republic’s communications and information ministry, which is known for having the region’s strictest control over the spread of misinformation.

Although the public may consequently relinquish their freedom of criticising the government, a stable administration will ensure expanded space for (extra-political) good journalism.

As for Malaysia which has seen a change of federal administration for two years, there are already signs pointing to a more liberal expression freedom.

Unfortunately, the political turmoil has further complicated the information market, and the authorities remain unprepared for media challenges.

The highly intricate information market and intense confrontation has created a favourable environment for the propagation of fake news and bad journalism in an attempt to crush a political rival or divert public attention from some highly controversial issues, and these make excellent topics for gossips.

With the proliferation of bad journalism , room for survival of good journalism is destined to constrict further.

As such, I always tell my students that good journalism has become a rare commodity because the local media industry appears to be slowly giving up on the production of high quality news that constitutes good journalism

It is instead going after production speed and attuning itself to the audience’s preferences.

Such a “rushy” content production model has deprived a journalist of the time to contemplate the depth of journalism.

What is more worrisome is that this phenomenon seems to have developed into a global trend, as I have heard from fellow journalists from regional countries like Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines, as well as Taiwan, Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom.

As the audience is more inclined to such news and reporting, local mass media increasingly carry stories violence and conflict.

They too are also encountering the same problem of bad journalism and fake news dominating the information market.

In other words, safeguarding the integrity of good journalism is posing a major challenge to the global media industry. And the elements that make up such a challenge are highly convoluted: a shift in audience preferences, media organisations’ pursuit of advertisements, unrestricted information dissemination channels, availability of information devices, and resurgence of media manipulation, among others.

Tackling one specific factor alone will not alter the status quo.

In view of this, I urge media workers in this region to constantly keep in mind what used to draw them to this profession.

Some of you might have joined this industry after pursuing a course in journalism, and I would like you to look back at all the expectations “good journalism” once promised you.

As a former journalist and now a media education worker, it has never crossed my mind that orthodox journalism should be led by the nose or by audience preferences.

The media industry has an irrefutable obligation of inspiring the public and enhancing their awareness.

We must stand united and take the initiative to tell these people what “good journalism” is, and help them nurture the ability to filter out unauthenticated news and bad journalism.

I always believe it is not that good journalism does not appeal to readers, but rather to their supervisors.

The article by Liew Wui Chern will be published on Sin Chew Daily on Sep 28. Liew Wui Chern teaches Journalism in University Tunku Abdul Rahman Malaysia.

Predators Around Us

Policing and courts alone can’t counter sexual harassment and abuse. The emotional complexity of such experiences as well as the family’s reluctance to discuss abuse make it hard for survivors, male or female, to speak up.

Yet an increasing number of survivors now want to put their experiences out in public – as long as their identity is not disclosed. This is their way of owning their experiences which, they say, helps to heal.

When Times of India’s Ambika Pandit started the series of first person accounts, she was flooded with responses from readers and motivated survivors to come forward to share their experiences buried for years.

This series of 10 survivor accounts shows that the trauma stays for years and often affects other relationships. Some of the survivors have not even been able to open up to their families.

In the first part of this series, a successful career woman in her early 40s explains that her confident facade hides scars of being harassed by an uncle, victimised by an alcoholic husband and raped by a stranger.

She tried to numb the pain with alcohol and drugs, but then chose to fight back. Now sober for nearly eight years, she says she still struggles for a life that’s ‘normal’.


Years ago, a man raped me as his friends stood guard at what looked like a construction site near Dwarka. I was terrified. I was sure I would be killed.

As I waited in fear, another man threw my clothes at me, and said, “The man who raped you is the son of a politician from another state and he has a gun. He will kill you and I don’t want to be embroiled in a murder case so I have decided to help you escape.”

Rape was normal for these men.

He dropped me off where I lived. I dragged myself to the police station to lodge an FIR. A cop heard my story. He went on to ask me my name, address and father’s name.

The last (piece of information) made me back out. I realised that I could not tell my parents all this. They would not be able to take it.

My identity became my biggest challenge as I had a successful career as a communications professional. I was a single woman, a divorcee, 28 years old at that time, living alone in an upscale neighbourhood.

The stakes were high, so I chose silence over legal recourse. My rape is still a secret.

“Tu hi galat hogi (you must have done something wrong)”

Years later, I have forgotten the faces of those men in the SUV but when I hear of a rape case, I am unable to take it. Something inside me breaks every time.

There’s more. To this day I remember an uncle shutting the dressing room door to fiddle with my skirt. I was 12. I shouted. He let me go, but never let me be.

Every time we visited his house, he would hold me tight, touch me inappropriately, or switch to a porn movie if I was in the room. I was too scared to speak. In my late 30s, when I finally told my mother, her response shocked me.

She said: “Tu hi galat hogi (you must have done something wrong)”. This changed everything between us. I still love her but it was a turning point in our relationship.

I was not always an alcoholic. I married when I was 23, only to realise I was stuck with an alcoholic and a drug addict. I started drinking with him.

He beat me, I drank more; substance abuse became a way of life. I always wonder how such an educated man could beat such an educated woman. We divorced a year later.

When Times of India’s Ambika Pandit started the series of first person accounts, she was flooded with responses from readers and motivated survivors to come forward to share their experiences buried for years. Source: Times of India

I focused on my career but being single is not easy. I worked for a top corporate, and one day my boss asked for the keys to my house.

He said he wanted to rest and I could join him. Stunned by this open assault on my dignity, I threatened to go to the HR department. He said he’d give me a bad appraisal. I decided to be quiet. That was the biggest mistake.

He ruined my career anyway, and it was too late to go to HR. I wish I had acted earlier.

I hope my story will help others find their way. I was lucky to find help to battle alcoholism, the coping mechanism I’d fallen back on to deal with years of abuse.

Today, I have been sober for nearly eight years. I am in the midst of setting up a business. The wounds are healing. Normal feels good.

I have started writing and share my experience on various platforms, keeping my identity anonymous.

I speak here hoping that this coming out will help other women and girls. I want them to stand up for themselves and not suffer alone.

Caption: Survivors of sexual violence share their stories to help others open up, own and heal their trauma.
Source: Times of India

In the second account of the series, this 19-year-old Delhi University student speaks of repeated sexual assault she ensured from a cousin- an experience she still hasn’t been able to tell her parents about.


I was too young to know how to protest, how to make my parents understand that I was being raped, again and again.

In villages, everyone knows everyone else, in fact most of us are related. My rapist was a distant cousin. He was in college; I wasn’t even 10 years old. I called him ‘bhaiya’ (brother), yet he raped me each time I went to his house in our village in Haryana.

My mother would send me to his house to buy milk. That’s when he’d rape me. At that age, I couldn’t understand what was happening but I knew it was not right.

I would protest when my mother asked me to get milk, but couldn’t muster the courage to tell her what was happening to me. Every time I refused to go she asked me why. Finally, she started going to get the milk herself.

My parents are still unaware of what I’ve faced. I know the consequences of having this conversation but I want to share my real name soon.

The abuse stopped when we moved to the city. A few years later, that cousin came visiting. He was married. I turned and ran to my room, and refused to come out. My parents scolded me for behaving badly.

My heart yearned to tell them but courage failed me again. I was around 12 at that time. I never saw him again.

Last year, after I joined college, I heard about a voluntary organisation that encouraged people to break their silence around sexual abuse and harassment. I joined the group.

Just being part of the group has made me realise that there are more people who have been sexually assaulted than I ever imagined.

In the group, I gained the confidence to speak, and with that came the conviction to question all that was wrong around me. Now, if I see someone staring, pushing or trying to grope someone, I shout at him to stop.

The sad part is that others don’t come forward to help or support. They just watch; this needs to change. Only if we rise collectively, can we hope to instil fear in the hearts and minds of those who sexually harass women.

We need to have these conversations not only to heal ourselves but also warn others of the dangers they face, and the action to take in such circumstances.

My parents are still unaware of what I’ve faced. I know the consequences of having this conversation but I want to share my real name soon. A beginning has to be made.

This story is a compilation of a series of articles published by the Times of India from July 2018 to Aug 2018. To read more click here

Pioneering daily use of cutting-edge tech

In Fuzhou, capital of East China’s Fujian province, a white, 5G-enabled, sensor-rich agricultural robot moves between two rows of leafy greens in a greenhouse, collects data about the plants, and feeds it back to the control room.

The farm robot has been successfully tested for compatibility with the 5G mobile communication technology.

What this means in real terms is this: pictures and other data can be transmitted from farmland in almost real time.

Latency, or the time lag, is no longer than just one-hundredth of a second.

This allows the data to be analysed by computers enabled by artificial intelligence, or AI, in the control room more efficiently, according to the Fujian Academy of Agricultural Sciences and Fujian Newland Era Hi-Tech Co, the two entities that developed the robot.

As if to soften the aura of its high-tech innards, the robot sports the eye-pleasing appearance of an adorable cartoon character.

Its smooth, round base, which hides wheels underneath it, adds to the overall cuddly effect.

The robot can move in a smooth, fluid, jerk-free motion in all directions. It can inspect farms automatically and collect data samples used to power various applications. It can determine plants’ health condition and decide if pest control measures are warranted.

Odds are, in the not too distant future, the 5G super robot can even pick fruit with one of its bionic hands.

This robot is part of a broader trend in China, which involves tech companies teaming up with a variety of industries- agriculture, automobile, healthcare- to explore possibilities of combining 5G and AI to revolutionise the traditional sectors of the economy.

China is forecast to invest US$184 billion in 5G by 2025, according to a report released by the Global System for Mobile Communications Association, which represents the interests of more than 750 mobile operators worldwide.

From conducting the world’s first 5G-enabled surgery on a human and transmitting 8K ultra-high-definition TV content through 5G networks to piloting self-driving buses and cars, a range of cutting-edge technologies are being put to commercial use.

The high-tech push is expected to accelerate now that the nation has kicked off the 5G era in June.

Yang Kun, an expert at the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, a research institute based in Beijing, said 5G enables data transfers at speeds at least 10 times faster than 4G, so it is possible to gather high-quality data quickly, which is necessary to ensure AI is effective.

“AI applications have existed before the commercial use of 5G, but it is the superfast speed, gigantic computing capacity and massive device connectivity of 5G that will spawn the use of AI in more sectors and on a far larger scale,” Yang said.

Lyu Tingjie, a professor at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications agreed. According to him, 5G’s responsive speed can empower mission-critical applications that were impossible with 4G networks.

“When a needle pinches your finger, it takes one hundredth of a second for you to feel the pain. And theoretical latency of 5G is one-tenth of that. Only with such speed can remote surgeries and autonomous driving see wider applications,” Lyu said.

In March, a patient with Parkinson’s disease underwent China’s, and possibly the world’s, first 5G-based remote surgery.

With technological support from Huawei Technologies Co and China Mobile, a doctor in Sanya of the Hainan province, remotely operated surgical instruments to implant a deep brain stimulator known as a “brain pacemaker” into the patient in Beijing around 2,500 kilometers away.

Ling Zhipei, chief physician of the First Medical Centre of the Chinese PLA General Hospital, conducted the three-hour surgery. “The 5G network has solved problems like video lag and remote control delay experienced under the 4G network, ensuring a nearly real-time operation,” Ling said.

On June 6, China granted commercial 5G licenses to China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom, the nation’s top three telecom carriers by the number of subscribers. State-owned China Broadcasting Network Corp also received the 5G license.

China is forecast to invest US$184 billion in 5G by 2025, according to a report released by the Global System for Mobile Communications Association, which represents the interests of more than 750 mobile operators worldwide.

Such investments are expected to power China’s big AI push. The nation is implementing an AI development plan that aims to build a 1 trillion yuan (US$141 billion) AI core industry by 2030, which is expected to stimulate related businesses to the tune of 10 trillion yuan.

Digital technologies such as AI, next-generation network security, robotics, blockchain, internet of things, 3D printing and virtual reality all depend on data, and 5G can address this need for data collection and its quick, smooth transmission, said Zhong Zhenshan, vice-president of emerging technology research at the China branch of International Data Corp.

Wang Xianchang, a professor at Jilin University, said the most important use of AI is to allow machines to automatically make decisions.

The best application scenario in civil use is self-driving vehicles. And 5G will allow such decisions to be made properly and more reliably.

“AI applications have existed before the commercial use of 5G, but it is the superfast speed, gigantic computing capacity and massive device connectivity of 5G that will spawn the use of AI in more sectors and on a far larger scale,”

When a car runs into emergencies like a pedestrian suddenly jaywalking, a delay in seconds of data transmission among sensors equipped within the car will likely cause a potentially grievous, even fatal, accident.

5G is here to prevent such things from happening, Wang said.

Currently, self-driving buses are under test in a string of cities across China, including Shenzhen, Guangdong province, and Changsha, Hunan province.

Chinese online search engine operator Baidu Inc announced plans as early as in December 2017 to mass-produce autonomous buses for designated areas. It will partner with bus manufacturer Xiamen King Long United Automotive Industry Co.

In East China’s Anhui province, carmaker Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Co Ltd teamed up with Baidu to develop cars with auto-pilot systems.

Xiang Ligang, director-general of the Information Consumption Alliance, said the commercial use of 5G will impart further momentum to AI, but more discussions are needed to talk about the legal and ethical issues surrounding its wider applications.

China took a step in that direction in June when it issued new guidelines for scientists and lawmakers to promote the “safe, controllable and responsible use” of AI for the benefit of mankind.

Xue Lan, dean of Schwarzman College at Tsinghua University and chairman of the committee that issued the guidelines, said AI has raised many new and complex issues, like data privacy, machine ethics, safety, risks and misuse like spreading misinformation using “deepfake videos”, and AI-manipulated footage.

But AI is not as uncontrollable or mystical as some people appear to presume, experts said. The regulatory or supervisory mechanisms could steer it in the right direction and leave enough room for exploration, course-correction, remedies and calibrated growth, analysts said.

This story by Ma Si and Hu Meidong was originally published on Jul 8 by China Daily.

China Daily has taken a broader look at the potential for 5G mobile technology to transform industries well beyond the telecommunications sector in submitting an article that appeared in Business Weekly on July 8, 2019. The report, a collaboration between Ma Si in Beijing and Hu Meidong in Fuzhou,took an in-depth look at how the fifth-generation technology is being increasingly put to work in industrial applications that also exploit advances in artificial intelligence (AI). While consumer-oriented applications of 5G have monopolised the headlines, the report by Ma and Hu shed light on the commercial uses that are being explored for these technologies. The marriage of 5G and AI is also being championed as a means for China to promote their safe and responsible use for the benefit of mankind. The report led with the use of 5G in agriculture and healthcare. The sectors offer interesting contrasts. Agriculture has been seen as a laggard in the uptake of cutting- edge advances, while caution has been at the forefront in people’s minds when it comes to the medical establishment’s adoption of new practices underpinned by scientific breakthroughs. As they interviewed experts in diverse fields, the reporters were impressed by the extent of the progress made by Chinese scientists and the readiness of entrepreneurs to embrace their work.

Politician caught negotiating with Russia in trap

Heinz-Christian Strache, the leader of Austria’s right-wing populist FPÖ party, met with purported Russian multimillionaire in Ibiza on July 24, 2017. She offered him campaign support in exchange for public contracts.

What he didn’t know was that the entire exchange was staged and recorded by hidden cameras.

The video was created three months before Austria’s general election that October. Following the election, Heinz-Christian Strache would rise to become the country’s vice-chancellor.

The video shows Strache and fellow party member Johann Gudenus, deputy mayor of Vienna at the time, meeting with a woman in a luxurious holiday villa on the Spanish island of Ibiza. She was introduced to them as Alyona Makarova, the purported niece of

Igor Makarov, a Russian oligarch close to President Vladimir Putin. The elegant woman could conduct business practically anywhere she wanted with her ‘Latvian’ passport.

The supposed investor who offered to invest a hundred million euros into their partnership already had a plan.

She proposed acquiring a 50 per cent stake in a highly influential Austrian tabloid, the Kronen Zeitung, to use the newspaper as a mouthpiece backing Strache and his party in the election campaign.

Strache, dressed casually in a T-shirt and jeans, seemed enthusiastic – mostly about the proposal, but also about the woman herself. “Are you kidding? She’s hot,” he said, with a Viennese lilt.

Strache spoke for more than six hours with the woman, alternately whispering and roaring, lecturing and gesticulating.

“As long as I’m not dead,” Strache said at one point, “I’ll be in charge for the next 20 years.”

Ultimately, a deal took shape in that room in the Ibiza villa on that July day in 2017: Russian money of uncertain origin would help boost the FPÖ’s election results. And it goes without saying that the woman purporting to be Alyona Makarova would also get something out of it.

The Russian woman’s apparent confidant said her money wasn’t “actually entirely legal” and described the deal as “legally tricky.”

That night, switching between Russian and English, she repeatedly asked what she would get in return after the election if, as planned, Strache were to become part of the government. The woman had a confidant at her side in the villa, a middle-aged man in white trousers and a blue shirt, who did most of the talking when it came to the sensitive negotiations. He demanded, in German, that they be granted the kind of blatant financial advantages that only a government can provide.

But Heinz-Christian Strache, who is fond of presenting himself as the man cleaning up Austrian politics, didn’t stand up and leave as one might have expected him to do in such a situation.

Instead, while he repeatedly emphasized during the conversation that he was only available for legal deals, he would quickly turn around and agree to proposals that, if implemented, would clearly be illegal.

The matters discussed included the question of whether the FPÖ, if it became part of a coalition government, would be in a position to award artificially inflated government contracts to the purported Russian.

They also talked about the possibility of the Russian woman making a donation to the FPÖ party that could be concealed by way of an association.

The Russian woman’s apparent confidant said her money wasn’t “actually entirely legal” and described the deal as “legally tricky.” And yet that still didn’t prompt Strache and Gudenus to leave. The confidant said the Russian woman’s dealings were in “an illegal space.” Strache and Gudenus remained seated.

The full length of the meeting is documented in the video, sober viewing that raises deep moral questions.

More than six hours that covered not only backroom deals, but also the overarching goal of creating a tamed Austrian media landscape similar to the Hungarian model.

Did Strache or Gudenus report to the authorities the next day that someone had attempted to bribe them? Or that illicit money was to be smuggled into Austria?

Requests for responses to those questions sent by Süddeutsche Zeitung and news weekly Der Spiegel were left unanswered.

“As long as I’m not dead,” Strache said at one point, “I’ll be in charge for the next 20 years.”

In a message to Süddeutsche Zeitung and Der Spiegel, Strache and Gudenus did not deny having been in that villa, but stress that it was a “strictly private meeting”.

Ibiza, an oligarch’s niece, millions and millions of euros and a major newspaper?

Even by the standards of Austrian politics – which has a penchant for absurdist drama – it is a rather audacious scenario. Too audacious to be real, in fact. Strache and Gudenus, it turns out, had been lured into a trap. Apparently, someone wanted to test how they would react to such a tempting offer.

The purported Russian wasn’t the niece of oligarch Makarov, who actually is a real person. Nor is it likely that she had hundreds of millions of euros at her disposal. She was simply acting as a decoy.

Neither Der Spiegel nor the Süddeutsche Zeitung have any reliable information about the motives of the people who set Strache this trap in 2017 or who they may have been working for.

But one thing is clear following the evaluation of the material and verification of its authenticity by two experts: It is in the public interest to know how Strache and Gudenus, high-ranking representatives of the Austrian government and of their party, responded to dubious advances from a purported oligarch.

This story by Leila Al-Serori, Oliver Das Gupta, Peter Münch, Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer was originally published online by Süddeutsche Zeitung on 17 May 2019 .

The meeting in Ibiza appears to have served the sole purpose of deceiving Strache and Gudenus in a professionally staged and technically elaborate spectacle. Hidden cameras and microphones were installed in the villa in light switches and in a mobile phone charging station. The microphones recorded almost every word spoken. The Süddeutsche Zeitung and Der Spiegel both obtained parts of the video and audio recordings and analysed them together. However, the newspaper paid no money for the material, and neither did Der Spiegel, according to the magazine. To verify the veracity of the video, Süddeutsche Zeitung obtained photos of an invoice showing the villa was booked from July 22-25, 2017. An expert hired by the Süddeutsche Zeitung confirmed that the photos advertising the villa on the booking website show the same rooms that can be seen in the hours of video footage.
Hidden cameras and microphones began recording their conversations there.

The voice from the jungle

As he usually does in the morning, Madu greets his listeners. Madu runs his broadcast from a community radio station, Benor FM Radio, located in a remote area in Bukit Suban Village.

The village is located in the Air Hitam District of Sarulangun Regency in theJambi Province.

Benor Radio was initiated by an NGO called the Indonesian Conservation Community Warsi.

Benor Radio, that started its broadcast since 2013, priorities its radio program forthe Anak Dalam, who are also known as the Orang Rimba ethnic group.

The group is scattered amongst the Bukit Dua Belas National Park area.

The Orang Rimba is a native Jambi community who live nomaidcally in the forest as a group.

Madu is a native broadcaster from the Orang Rimba ethnic group. Beside Madu, there are five other native jungle people who are active as broadcasters.

For the children of the Suku Anak Dalam, it is not easy to learn to be an announcer. However, their willing attitudes have now made them broadcasters whose voices are eagerly awaited by The Orang Rimba in the forest and local residents.

“Well, the first difficulty was learning to operate a laptop. When I first broadcasted, I spoke stiffly, but after two weeks it went smoothly,” said Madu.

By broadcasting the radio show to cover an area of 30 kilometres, Benor Radio program can be listened to by 80 percent of the entire 2,546 jungle people in the national park area.

In addition to fighting inequality and enabling equal access to media and information, Benor Radio was established to deliver information to people who live in the forest and who are difficult to reach physically.

“To get information, Orang Rimba access is very limited. By the radio, it can provide information to the jungle people and the radio can be a learning medium for them,” said Jauharul Maknun, responsible person for Benor FM Radio.

“Benor is also expected to become a media platform that bridges the gap between the jungle people and the surrounding community, reducing the negative stigma of outside communities towards the jungle people. we can provide understanding to the outside community about the jungle people,” He added.

For The Orang Rimba, radio is the only medium they are able to get information from.

The Orang Rimba live in simple wooden shelters. They live nomadically in the forest depends on the availability of food. Source: ANTARA Indonesia News Agency

“I got the information about earthquakes, floods, and also elections (through the radio). So we got the information about who wins and loses in the election,” said Perabung, as member of Suku Anak Dalam.

Moreover, Benor Radio provides information about the arrival of health workers to the national park area.

This is important to the Orang Rimba whos secluded and nomadic livs in the forest often rob them of health facilities.

This story by Perwiranta, Syahrudin, Amir Musa and Sandy Arizona was originally published on ANTARA Indonesia News Agency in May 2019.

Suara Dari Rimba is a documentary video made by the ANTARA TV team in May 2019. The documentary video is about the lives of the Anak Dalam tribe, or who are also known as the Orang Rimba, whose live nomadically inside the forest area. The current presence of Radio Benor is their only source of information. The Anak Dalam tribe community has been limited to receiving information and in voicing their anxiety. Their forest home is still being destroyed. The Orang Rimba have been pushed from their homes in Bukit Duabelas National Park because of deforestation. The team took a six hour road trip to where they stayed. It was challenging for the team due to the rocky and unpredictable roads. There was also a lack of facilities as the park was situated in a very remote area. The place and the people were isolated from any mode of transportation and cut off from any communication with the outside world. Thus, those who lived there spoke in a different dialect as they only used their native language. We therefore required a translator. They used firewood to cook simple food from the jungle, such as cassava, and drank water from streams. Living in such a closed and secluded area, they were quite protective and wary when our team arrived for the documentary video.

Trafficked into nightmares

Local agents have been smuggling victims across Benapole’s border by showing forged documents of family relations at immigration checkpoints. Sometimes the gang members marry the victims only to sell them into prostitution later.

The Daily Star learned about this after talking to six victims and law enforcers in bordering areas recently.

In most cases, the victims from different parts of the country are gathered at small huts built by the traffickers near Benapole border. At that point, they are treated nicely and given the impression that they would actually go to India for a better future.

When it is time, their counterparts in India would notify their accomplices, and the victims are taken to the other side of the border.

For commuting, the traffickers always use motorbikes just as locals in border areas do, and carry sweetmeat, fish or gift packets to avoid drawing suspicion.


According to victims and local law enforcers, the traffickers use Putkhali, Sadipur, Boroachra, and Gathipara points of Jashore to traffic the victims into India without passports.

The victims are first taken to Jashore and then to the border points by motorbike before they are kept in the small huts.

Rights activists said the gang sells a woman or girl to Indian brothels for Tk 2.5 to 3 million.

Take the case of victim Bonya (not her real name).

The 17-year-old girl used to live with her parents in the capital’s Mirpur and was looking for a job after completing higher secondary education. She left home after a woman, her neighbour, promised her a better job in India.

On Jan 28, 2017, she went to Jashore by bus with the woman’s boyfriend. From Jashore town, they went to Benapole by motorbike.

“For the next five days, the man kept me in a small hut with a TV, almirah (a cupboard) and small bed,” Bonya said, talking to The Daily Star in Jashore town after her rescue.

“The man asked me to stay inside the hut and went away. I was not allowed to go outside for security reason, and a woman gave me food timely.”

Bonya come back home in March last year with the support of Rights Jessore, a human rights organisation.

“On Feb 5, the man came back early in the morning and took me near Putkhali where a boat was waiting for me,” she said.

“After crossing the river, I found a man with a motorbike. He drove me into a dense forest. One hour later, I saw a locality.”

In the area, Bonya was kept in a house and forced to sleep with some men, she said. “After a few days, I was being taken to a brothel area. On the way, I ran from them and went to the local police.”

Police then sent Bonya to a shelter home in West Bengal, and she finally made contact with Rights Jessore from there.

This reporter recently visited Putkhali in Benapole, and met a person called Sagar with the help of a local man while posing as a client.

During the conversation about how to cross the border without a passport, Sagar said he could make the arrangement, but it would cost Tk 5,000 (US$59.13) because “border security has been heightened recently.”

When asked if there were two persons including a woman, Sagar grinned and said he could arrange that too, but the cost would go up to Tk 16,000. “We charge extra for women because it is risky, and it takes time.”

After the correspondent agreed, Sagar said, “You need to stay near the border for one day or two. We will first clear the border for you and then help you cross it.”

Sagar demanded an additional Tk 300 for every overnight stay and Tk 200 for food at the hut. He also advised the correspondent to carry some additional cash to buy sweetmeat or fruit on the way.


Locals and law enforcers said each of the border points is run by local ruling party men. They pay hefty amounts to law enforcers to run the trafficking activities smoothly.

Executive Director of Rights Jessore Binoy Krishna Mallick said, “We have learnt from rescued victims and our local network that some people are leading the nexus at border points using political identity.”

At present, one Ghana Biswas oversees the Putkhali point, Ashok Sen the Boroachra point, and Jahidul Islam the Sadipur point of Benapole, The Daily Star learned after talking to some accomplices of the gangs and sources of law enforcement agencies.

All of them are supporters of the Awami League and have been involved in human trafficking for years, but were never arrested, the sources said. Locally, they are known as farmers despite owning luxurious multi-storey homes in nearby Sharshaupazila, they added.

“In the same way, the traffickers get passports for underage girls. They identify them as children or siblings while making fake passports and documents,”

The Daily Star tried to communicate with them but their phones were switched off.

Rights activists said the gang sells a woman or girl to Indian brothels for Tk 2.5 to 3 million.

Asked about the alleged complicity of the ruling party men, Awami League’s Benapole unit President Enamul Hoque Mukul said some may get involved, but they are doing it in secret.

“We take strict action against whoever is found guilty.”

He said the law enforcers have tightened security, and the situation is improving now.

Asked about AL men’s involvement, lieutenant-colonel Selim Reza, commander of Border Guard Bangladesh-49 (BGB), refused to give a direct reply.

He, however, said they take action against those found involved in the crime. “The situation has got better now, and the number of trafficking incidents has come down to almost zero for our increased vigilance and action.”

Salauddin Sikder, additional police superintendent of Jessore, said trafficking through the border declined in recent years although there were still some reports of trafficking.

He said he had no specific information about law enforcers’ involvement in the crime but warned of action if any member of the force was found guilty.


In recent times, the traffickers have changed techniques. Now they get their prey across the border using the “legal” channel.

“For a woman, the traffickers make fake documents like a marriage certificate and a passport. Then they cross the border like a couple going on a trip to India,” Masud Karim, officer-in-charge of Benapole Police Station, told The Daily Star.

“In the same way, the traffickers get passports for underage girls. They identify them as children or siblings while making fake passports and documents,” said the OC, who claimed to have got the information after interrogating victims.

Now few victims cross the border illegally, he said. “Some are still doing it without passports, but most of them have relatives in India, or they are sick and poor.”

“We charge extra for women because it is risky, and it takes time.”

Asked about raiding the border huts, the OC said they often conduct drives and take action against the criminals. Sometimes, they also rescue victims from the huts.


There are some cases in which traffickers marry a girl before selling her to a brothel in India.

On January 18 last year, a Jashore court sentenced one Shohag Hossain of Narail for life and fined him Tk 50,000 for selling his wife to a brothel in Mumbai.

Shohag married the girl of Jashore Sadarupazila on July 7, 2007. Later, he told his in-laws that he would take his wife to India for a better job. The girl’s family refused but he kept insisting, the victim’s family told The Daily Star in May last year.

Finally, Shohag went to India with his wife on April 15, 2009, without letting anyone know. When her family found him missing, they filed a complaint with police and went to Rights Jessore. A few days later, Shohag came back home alone, and said his wife went missing in India.

Rights Jessore rescued the girl from a Mumbai brothel on May 7, 2010, using its network.

This story by Mohammad Jamil Khan was originally published by The Daily Star on Jul 22.

The reporter had to act as a local to get in touch with gang members who ran the trafficking trade, in order to acquire information pertaining to the story. Social workers and law enforcement sources, who worked with the trafficked victims, helped clue him in on the gang members tasks and whereabouts. However, he did not get much data or support from the local law enforcers. While working in the field, he convinced locals to help him cross Benapole’s borders without a passport by paying them sums of money. The NGOs who used to work to rescue traffic victims also assisted him in getting some ideas and provided him a database of contacts. As local political leaders were benefiting from the trafficking trade, the reporter was forced to hide his identity while staying in the bordering village. The social workers, who helped him throughout his investigation, alerted him to a possible threat from a political muscleman. After the story published, the reporter received dozens of phone calls congratulating him on the findings. To his knowledge, although illegal human trafficking is still underway through bordering points, the number of trafficking cases has reduced significantly.

Finding ways to beat farm debt

The farm sector has been a driving engine behind Thailand’s economic growth, but at the same time, debt among farmers has been rising.

The main product of farming is rice.

Last year, the value of rice traded was 174.5 billion baht (US$5.7 billion), entailing 12.89% of all farming products.

Logically, rice farmers should be enjoying wealthy profits.

But the uncertainties of farming – unmerciful weather, droughts and floods, fluctuating prices and rising costs – enslave rice farmers to debts.

“Thai farmers are getting into more and more debt because they can draw on all kinds of financial sources. All governments have a raft of policies to help farmers get finance at low interest rates. But farming is a high risk career with variable returns,”

The government has offered help, but to no avail.

Farming debt, often incurred by rice farmers, rose from 2.4 trillion baht in 2016 to 2.8 trillion baht as of last year, according to the National Statistical Office (NOS).

Among 3.8 million debtors with state-funded loans, 1.1 million of them are farmers, according to the NOS.

In August 2017, hundreds of rice farmers gathering in front of commercial banks and the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) demanded help.

The government granted them debt relief, with interest cuts.

However the larger question still remains: how can Thailand tackle farmers debt so it disappears for good?


Samree Treesawat, a 54 year-old farmer from Ayutthaya province, was among the farmers who joined the protest at the BAAC.

“I can see no future. The price of rice has gone down every year since the coup. I make no profit from rice plantations. I have been a farmer since I was young. I can’t change to a new job,” Mr Samree told the Bangkok Post.

10 years ago, Seree borrowed one million baht from the BAAC to develop his home and launch a grocery business as a second job apart from growing rice.

During the early years, he was able to make debt repayments, but stopped them over the past four years.

Total interest payments have reached 300,000 baht.

A farmer in Bangkok’s Nong Chok district drives a harvester to collect his crop. Variables such as unmerciful weather, fluctuating prices and rising costs enslave rice farmers to their debts. Source: Patipat Janthong

Mr Samree said he does not own his own land, so the costs are higher, and production costs in general have increased. Like many other rice farmers, Mr Samree rents land to plant rice.

Although, the harvest gave him plenty of rice to sell, he was still unable to make enough money to repay his debt.

First, Mr Samree needed to earmark 150 kilograms of paddy rice per rai (1,600 square metres) to repay his landlord.

His landlord prefers rice to cash. Landlords make easy money selling rice when the price in the world market jumps.

If not, they can still make money from a government subsidy under the rice mortgage scheme.

If droughts hit or the weather is otherwise cruel, Mr Samree could end up owing rent.

Even if he had not harvested enough rice to pay rent to his landlord, he still needed to pay for production costs such as oil for tractors, chemical pesticides, chemical fertilisers and seeds.


Based on a study by the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) in 2016, almost a quarter of all farm debts are owed to state banks.

Kamphol Pantakua, a researcher from the TDRI, said farmers have borrowed money from banks for further investment, which can return benefits of up to 77%.

That makes good sense economically, except farmers do not borrow for farming only.

Around 34% of them borrow for developing or buying a house or residential plot, 15% for education, 14% for improving the farming business, 14% for doing business, 10% on general consumption and 13% for other purposes.

The problem is therefore not about lacking loans or financial help.

“Thai farmers are getting into more and more debt because they can draw on all kinds of financial sources. All governments have a raft of policies to help farmers get finance at low interest rates. But farming is a high risk career with variable returns,” said Kamphol.

He explained that rice is a commodity that is easy to sell, but not much of a money-maker.

The price of rice fluctuates greatly based on the world market, not to mention fierce competition.

“Farmers could reap a 50% profit or suffer a loss just as big at any time,” he said.

The TDRI researcher also found that policies to help farmers are a problem in themselves.

To tackle the debt problem, many governments also implemented debt suspension schemes.

Governments also provided other non-financial sources of support, such as coupons for cheaper fuel and fertiliser.

They also offered special loans with long-term payments and low interest rates to farmers. Interest rates for farmers from state banks are the lowest in Asean – amounting to less than 2%.

Kamphol said that the government should reduce subsidies to the farming sector and cultivate self-sufficiency.

He said the government should play a new role as a “funding agency” to support farmers and raise capacity.

The government, he said, should pull in academics, local NGOS, and state officials to create a new strategy to solve farmer debt.

“But if the government still puts in large volumes of money to farmers with little efficiency, it will burden the country as money is drawn away from developing other fields,” he said.


The president of the BAAC, Apirom Sukprasert, said that non-performing loans at the BAAC are still at an “acceptable” level.

“Most farmers have skills in financial management. They can repay debt on time. But we still have some with problems, and we welcome them to discuss them with us,” Sukprasert said.

About 1.5 million people who are debtors of the bank have registered as poor under the government’s scheme to help those with little money and the value of their debt is about 300,000 baht per person on average.

“I can see no future. The price of rice has gone down every year since the coup. I make no profit from rice plantations. I have been a farmer since I was young. I can’t change to a new job,”

He said the bank has more flexible channels to help farmers improve their quality of life, compared with the past when loans were limited to agricultural purposes only.

“Now, our clients can get financial loans for education or real estate purchases, with different interest rates.”

However, the important thing, he added, is the bank will work with agencies to create “immunity” for those farmers.

Farmers are shown how to cultivate financial discipline and increase personal savings.

The bank has also offered measures to attract more savings from farmers.

Most popular among clients are lucky draw competitions, with winners drawn from those with deposit accounts.

Sukprasert said the BAAC is approving soft loans to 452 cooperative farmers nationwide, which will be allocated to support farmers to help cut production costs and increase income.

This is done under the government’s agricultural reform policy.

The private sector, for its part, will help farmers distribute their products to customers.

“We can no longer be focused on debt suspension or loans alone. We must focus on making farmers more disciplined and more financially independent, as that is the way to become debt free.”

This story by Penchan Charoensuthipan was first published by The Bangkok Post on October 28, 2018.


In August 2017, hundreds of rice farmers converged in front of commercial banks and the BAAC to demand for help after they were unable to pay off farming loans. The significant gathering of these farmers prompted The Bangkok Post to turn its attention to farmer debt in Thailand. It also raised the question of how Thailand could better tackle it. Anucha Charoenpo, the news editor at the Bangkok Post, later discussed the idea with the writer and encouraged her to investigate a number of farmers in debt with state-funded loans, the cause of their debt and what loan assistance packages each farmer received. The story has encouraged all stakeholders involved – especially the Thai government – to pay more attention to the problems of farmer debt while rice farmers who were themselves in debt were alerted to the changes they needed to make. This included practising increasing discipline and making themselves more financially independent.