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Reporting safely in Bangkok

May 14th, 2010 · No Comments

Armed clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters in Bangkok left 16 people dead and more than 100 injured, including three journalists.

This timely safety advice for reporters working in this increasingly dangerous city is based on consultation with a local security expert.

1. Consider if you really need to put yourself in the fire-zone for your story. Really do this, there are a lot of people running around covering the issue but without any commissions to actually get paid for it. So ask yourself again and again if you are being wise risking death or serious injury without actually being paid to cover the event for a news organisation. Remember a lot of the soldiers are young, inexperienced, hot, tired and scared. After 12 hours on the streets they may not be able to make very sound judgments in a confilict situation.

2. Wear light clothes, e.g. white top, light brown trousers. Avoid wearing black which is intimidating, especially when the UDD guards wear black and there have been incidents of men-in-black with AK47s shooting at soldiers. Don’t make yourself anymore of a target.

3. Carry 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.

Again. These comments are to help give you some safety guidance if you HAVE to go and report on the situation. They are not guranateed to help you. Do not for an instance believe that by simply reading and acting on this list you will be safe. The situation is highly volatile and it has been proven to be deadly for too many people already. Question everything you are doing, especially the most important point – why am I putting myself at risk right now?

Tags: Greg's Blog · Thailand

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