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A story like no other: Interview with author, correspondent Zoe Daniel

PHUKET: Zoe Daniel has been Australia’s ABC Southeast Asia correspondent since 2010, covering major regional stories like the 2010 Red Shirt protest and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, all while juggling her work with parenthood. Now based back in Melbourne, she speaks about her new memoir, Storyteller.


By Claire Connell

Wednesday 2 April 2014, 03:14PM


When did you begin being the SEA correspondent for ABC?

I lived in Cambodia for a year with my family in 2009 and then moved to Bangkok at the start of 2010 to take up the posting as Southeast Asia correspondent. I’ve just moved back to Australia to take up the position as presenter of The World, a daily international current affairs programme that will air on ABC News 24 and Australia Network.

What significant stories/events have you covered during this time period?
My posting began with the Red Shirt protests in 2010. After that I covered the Burmese election, the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and the opening up of Burma/Myanmar, the 2010 Phnom Penh stampede, the Christmas Island asylum seeker boat crash, the floods of 2011, the Australian government’s proposed Malaysia solution for refugees, unrest in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and the exodus of Rohingya to Thailand and Malaysia, the New Delhi rape case and the issue of rape in India, the Lao Airlines plane crash of 2013 and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines –to name a few.

What was covering the 2010 Red Shirt protests in Bangkok like, and what are your views on the current situation in Bangkok? What do you think the solution is for Thailand?
Civil unrest is very difficult to cover because it’s very unpredictable and for that reason can be dangerous for journalists because managing risk is difficult when you can’t pinpoint where the danger is. The 2010 protests proved that with the death and injury of a number of reporters who were simply doing their jobs. The 2014 protests appear to be similar with the spate of random attacks with explosives that have caused death and injury to civilians. It’s not up to me to express a view about solutions other than to say that adherence to a democratic process is paramount in my view. Any attempt to take government by force either through protests or a coup will merely lead to further conflict.


What has been your most horrifying interview, and why?
I’ve done lots of difficult interviews about things like rape, child abuse, abduction and murder. They’re all horrifying, especially the ones involving poor families who have lost children and have little access to justice. I also find talking to asylum seekers and refugees who’ve spent years in limbo with no access to basic rights like education particularly heartbreaking.

What were some of the big Thailand stories you covered?
Although based in Bangkok, I covered nine countries so I spent a lot of time outside Thailand. The big Thailand stories were the ongoing political conflict, the 2011 election and the floods.

New Paths Retreat

Have there been any particular moments where you have thought, ‘This is a great job’?
Many, many moments, too many to count. The job provides incredible, adventurous travel to amazing places as well as access to amazing people – both high profile and ordinary. It’s a real privilege to meet people in their own homes and countries.

Do you get addicted to danger?
Yes and no. Adrenalin is addictive but it’s also exhausting. Relaxing can be difficult when you’re coiled like a spring all the time. Having a break here and there is necessary.

Have there been any particular moments where you have seriously feared for your life?
Dodging bullets during the Red Shirt protests of 2010 was very high risk. I’ve also covered conflict in parts of Africa where there’s a risk of injury. Kidnapping can also be a risk in some places. I’ve been lucky so far but we do our best to manage the risks to keep ourselves as safe as possible. To be honest, dodgy car, boat and plane travel can be some of the most concerning elements of remote trips!

Do you think you got the work/life balance right in regards to seeing your children?
I don’t feel guilty but I do think it was time for a break so I could spend a bit more time with them before they grow up and disappear. You’re always going to compromise a few things trying to balance work and family, on both sides. Having said that I think we’ve all gained a lot as people from the travel that we’ve done and the people we’ve met.

Now that you’re back home, what do you miss about Thailand?
I miss friends and our home in Bangkok, the sounds and smells of the city, the warm nights, the people and the colour and vibrancy that is Thailand – and the food of course!
Mostly I miss my wonderful team in the ABC’s Bangkok bureau, a better bunch of people you will never find anywhere.

Storyteller is available from shop.abc.net.au for B870, or as an e-book via Amazon.

 

 

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