Real news from Bangkok in real time
Google maps mashup showing location of protests from Richard Barrow

Google maps mashup showing location of protests from Richard Barrow

In recent times social media has played a big part in some major world events. Social tools like Twitter and Facebook have played important roles in uprisings such as the Arab Spring, while the current situation in Ukraine is being transmitted around the world using social media too. This is where we now are in news terms. No more the daily newspaper and 10 o’clock news report on TV – today we get our news when we want it, to our mobile devices, in true real-time.

In Thailand right now there is serious political unrest in the capital, Bangkok. This of course creates uncertainty for tourists and business travelers intending to head there – so far 45 countries have warned their citizens against traveling to Thailand – and major cultural events such as Eric Clapton’s Bangkok concert have been cancelled. These responses are quite often though due to very top-level news reporting. There can be a tendency on the part of major news organizations to sensationalize stories that are happening somewhere a long way away, and speaking as someone who lives in Thailand, I get a very different picture of the Bangkok situation from resident Twitter users and bloggers than I do from the heavily-filtered, slowly-produced BBC and CNN reports.

Delve a little deeper, find the right people to follow on Twitter, and you quickly learn that the Bangkok demonstrations are limited to very specific areas of a sprawling city, around which the vast majority of life goes on pretty much as normal. The main international airport is around 30 kilometres from any of the trouble spots, as repeatedly pointed out by Bangkok-based English language bloggers such as Richard Barrow.

So if you are flying into Bangkok and then on to one of the islands to the south such as Samui or Phuket, you genuinely will have no knowledge of there being any problems taking place in the city. But if you weren’t using social media direct to your mobile device for up to the minute news from an informed source on the ground in Bangkok, you’d never really know this.

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