Shan Groups Call Out Thai Media for Ethnic Bias in Crime Report

Reporters named the perpetrators in a fatal stabbing in Chiang Mai as being ethnic Shan before any arrests had been made.

June 21, 2019

Two Chiang Mai-based Shan civil society organizations sent a letter to the Northern Thailand Journalists Association objecting to media coverage of a stabbing in the city in which the perpetrators were named as ethnic Shan before arrests had been made.

On the night of June 18, two Thai teenagers were killed by attackers wielding swords. Thai media outlets reported that a Shan gang was likely responsible.

The Shan Literature and Culture Association and the Northern Thailand Indigenous People’s Network held a press conference on Friday objecting to this move, and publicizing their letter to the journalists’ association.

“Media outlets reported the news by using the [alleged] ethnicity [of the perpetrators]. We are worried about this creating interethnic conflict between different groups,” Sai Seng Mai Mang Kon, who serves in leadership roles in both the Shan Literature and Culture Association and the Northern Thailand Indigenous People’s Association, told NMG.

He added that he was worried that as a result of the reporting—which was based on speculation—that “racial hatred would arise between different communities.” Sai Seng Mang Kon said that the ethnicity was not relevant, and details of the crime should be revealed once facts have been confirmed.

The letter from the Shan organizations was delivered to Nai Insom Pyannyasopha, editor-in-chief of the Chiang Mai-based Thai News and chairperson of the Northern Thailand Journalists Association.

“I accept it. I will try to solve this problem,” he said, adding that he did not have control over what all journalists wrote. “I will explain it to youth reporters and TV reporters so that this does not happen again.”

After a search by around 60 police officers in Chiang Mai following the fatal stabbing, six Thai students with two long swords were arrested near Nawarat Bridge on June 18. An investigation to determine whether they were involved in the murder is ongoing.