BANGKOK, Jan. 13, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- As anti-government protesters set to shutdown Bangkok, the pressure on Thailand's mass media have grown very rapidly. Recently, a number of Thailand's national TV broadcasters and major newspapers have been under scrutiny from both sides for being unfair in their coverage of the shutdown. Therefore, as the protest continues, there is high possibility that protesters could surround and occupy offices of traditional media such as print and broadcast in a bid to prevent them from functioning. This could result in difficulty in communications or inaccessible to news on current events for Thai people. It is expected that Social Media will once again become main channel of communication. However, there are key concerns regarding the role of Social Media in this particular event.
Teera Kanokkanjanarat, Senior Analyst from Frost & Sullivan states that, "This year, social media websites and applications, such as Facebook and Line, have evolved from being either just a chat app or sharing tool to become major communication mega platforms. These platforms offer services beyond simple chat conversation to free voice and video calls and sharing media on Timeline. We have approximately 18.5 million Thai users on Facebook out of 25 million total internet users in the country. Line also has seen growth with 18 million users at the end of last year."
As the protest may result in traditional media shutdown, people are ever more relying on these social media platforms to communicate and get updated on the latest news. "During the New Year, some mobile operators experienced more than 300% increase in data usages as sending wishes and greetings via chat app like Line, which has become more popular among Thai users. Research data shows that an average Thai internet user consumes approximately 15 MB of data per day. We expect the usage to increase significantly as people from all over the country, especially in metro Bangkok area, tune in to social media and internet for update on the protest," Teera said.
"The total amount of data usages through mobile devices and broadband internet combined during Bangkok shutdown could surpass that of the New Year. Note that this time users won't be simply sending messages but engaging on conversation, watching internet TV, and constantly sharing news updates. Handling the spiking demand for bandwidth with existing infrastructure will be a challenge for all stakeholders, Ministry of ICT the key enabler, NBTC the regulator, and telecom operators," Teera added.
Albeit its convenience, relying Social Media does come with caution, mainly the concerns of validity and authenticity of messages conveyed. Teera notes that people should be aware of the power of Social Media, "Social Media is a powerful tool, not only as a communication platform but also as a political tool. A news story shared by a trusted friend on Social Network can have the level of intimacy that no other digital channel can achieve. Before buying in on the message, people must consider validity of the content, whether it is from legitimate original sources, and its implication. Regardless of the content, once people share a story on social network, they also need to be responsible for its its consequence."
On another note, Koh Eng Lok, Thailand Country Head, Frost & Sullivan adds that, "Bangkok Shutdown will likely affect Thailand's international reputation and standing. The tourism business will be badly hit for January and the golden week of Lunar New Year in end January and early February. Traditionally, tourists from countries celebrating Lunar New Year like China, Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia like to travel to various destinations in Thailand like Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya, Hua Hin. However, due to the unstable political situation this year, many of them may choose other destinations in South East Asia to usher in the Year of the Horse.
"If the political stalemate persists, FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) into Thailand may be impacted as well. Oversea investors as well as local Thai businesses are adopting a wait-and-see approach before making any significant investment this year. Generally, businesses are in a Business Continuity Planning(BCP) mode the last few weeks to finalize their contingency plans in case the political situation goes out of control," he says.
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SOURCE Frost & Sullivan