BANGKOK — 2020 is the year of a lanky 22-year-old journalist pointing a mounted iPhone at a 53-year-old veteran correspondent who shows audiences from all over the world what’s really happening in Thailand, real-time.
Khaosod English reporters Tappanai Boonbandit and Pravit Rojanaphruk became a sort of a household name this year thanks to their candid and occasionally dangerous live broadcasts. They have covered everything from political protests shaking the foundations of Thailand to plant market tours – bickering with each other like an old married couple along the way.
Thank you so much for watching Tappanai and Pravit cover ground this year. We’ve picked seven Facebook Lives that showcased the best of the Gen X and Gen Z duo. See you again in 2021!
The beginning of the student-led protests
The dissolution of Future Forward, the chief opposition party extremely popular among the younger voters, back in February kicked off anti-government protests in a number of universities across Thailand – the first awakening of student activism in many, many years.
Pravit and Tappanai were there at Mahidol University on Feb. 25, when thousands of students gathered to vent their frustration at PM Prayut Chan-o-cha’s government, who has been in power since the May 2014 coup. The protest later snowballed into a nationwide movement that challenged not only PM Prayut’s grip on power, but also some of the most influential institutions of Thailand.
Oct. 16 crackdown on student protesters
After spending an entire afternoon broadcasting a large protest from the Pathum Wan Intersection in the heart of Bangkok’s shopping district, Pravit and Tappanai found themselves caught between a line of riot police and protesters’ barricades.
They were about to end the episode at the police line, but then companies of fully geared riot police suddenly advanced to the protest site. Water cannons moved in and water jets laced with irritants were fired on unarmed demonstrators.
It was the first act of police violence on demonstrators since the pro-democracy protests began and no one was prepared for it.
Top quote from the episode: “Come on, Tappanai. Don’t be scared!”
Live interview with Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit
Pravit sits down with the tycoon-turned-politician whose entry to politics led to a chain of consequences that few could have possibly imagined. Thanathorn was given a chance to speak out on the widespread accusations that he masterminded anti-monarchy plots, but he was also challenged with some hard questions by Pravit.
Clashes in front of the Parliament
With projectiles whizzing by, our duo continued the live broadcast from the protest in front of the Parliament on Nov. 17. Water cannons queued up one after another to drench demonstrators with water and teargas. Sounds of muffled voices could be heard on air as the pair struggled to speak inside a gas mask.
Police later withdrew from Kiek Kai Intersection after water cannons reportedly ran out of water, setting a stage for a violent confrontation between pro-democracy and ultraroyalist protesters that many Thais have dreaded to see.
While most other fresh graduates hire photographers to commemorate their graduation, the entire Khaosod English team recorded Tappanai’s graduation ceremony – Live.
Pravit then took the audience on a tour of the Thammasat University Tha Prachan campus, whose alumni include Thailand’s most progressive political forces, and grounds of which have been literally soaked with blood during some of Thailand’s darkest episodes.
Though Pravit is not a Thammasat alumnus, he appears to know more than Tappanai about the history behind the institution regarded as a bastion of democracy in Thailand.
Oct. 26 royalist protest at the German Embassy
We believe in giving space to all sides in the debate, regardless of how offensive they may be to the audience’s ears.
That is why Pravit chats up ultraroyalists as they rallied on Oct. 26 in front of the German Embassy in support of His Majesty the King, who often spends time in Germany. Later that evening, Pravit and Tappanai would hear a completely different version of the story from the pro-reform protest at the same venue.
Migrant workers and seafood Restaurants
In the wake of the second wave of COVID-19 outbreak in Thailand emanating from a shrimp market in Samut Sakhon, where many migrant workers live and work, our duo hit the ground immediately and sought to bring news to the audience amid the growing noises of panic and prejudice on social media.
Bonus: The Royal Convoy
Perhaps the strangest experience for Pravit and Tappanai was when they were interviewing two activists, Ekachai Hongkangwan and Bunkueanun “Francis” Paothong, during a protest in front of Government House on Oct. 16 – and then all of a sudden, police and a royal motorcade carrying none other than Her Majesty the Queen pushed through the crowd of demonstrators.
The incident was captured on our Facebook Live, though we were forced to delete it soon after due to concerns of possible legal actions. Ekachai and Bunkueanun were later charged with committing acts of violence on the Queen – a charge that could land them in prison for life, despite the fact that they did not even touch the convoy. It was indeed a strange episode.