Deputy permanent secretary for justice Tawatchai Thaikyo yesterday (July 20) warned that the foreign media’s questions may have a negative impact on the boys’ recoveries and lead them to suffer from post-traumatic stress.
He was responding to reports that some international news agencies have already conducted interviews with the boys since they returned home.
ABC News was among agencies which reportedly secured exclusive interviews with some of the members of the Wild Boars football team.
“The interviews should not have been done at all. Some questions can trigger fear in the boys, especially questions about the use of medication during their extraction from the cave. Such questions only serve to remind them of the trauma they went through and may lead to further psychological issues in the future,” Mr Tawatchai said.
Mr Tawatchai faulted the international news agencies for ignoring a request by Thai authorities for their cooperation in respecting the privacy of the boys and their families.
However, he praised Thai media organisations for cooperating.
“Although the foreign agencies claim that they had permission from the boys’ parents, it is not right because Thai and foreign journalists were given clear guidelines for their coverage. The parents of the boys might not be prepared to cope with what’s to come,” Mr Tawatchai said.
He urged the agencies to follow the same guidelines used when minors are questioned in court.
There, children’s testimonies are overseen by social workers or psychiatrists, Mr Tawatchai said.
“We thought that foreign media organisations understood conventions on children’s rights and procedures to protect the young but their standards have turned out to be lower than expected. It seems they lack common sense,” he said.
Twelve local football players aged 11-16 and their 25-year-old coach from the Moo Paa (Wild Boars) Academy football team entered Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district on June 23 and were trapped inside by rising floodwater.
An international rescue operation located them after 10 days and brought them out in batches over a three-day period from July 8-10. The incident made international headlines as the cave extraction was considered to be the toughest of its kind and drew help from local and international rescuers and supporters.
Boonruang Triruangworawat, director-general of the Ministry of Public Health’s Department of Mental Health, said interviews with the boys could affect their mental health in the long term.
Interviews should be put off for at least two months as the boys are still under observation, he advised.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam also warned that the foreign media’s interviews with the boys risk violating laws protecting children’s rights.
The government had instructed officials from the Social Development and Human Security to look after the boys, Mr Wissanu said.
However, Anira Thinon, a social development and human security official in Chiang Rai, said that foreign reporters had not obtained permission from officials and had conducted their interviews when the officials assigned to look after the boys were absent.
“The media will be held responsible under the children protection law which regulates media coverage and the foreign media is no exception,” she said.
Thepchai Yong, president of the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association, posting on Facebook, criticised foreign media intrusion on the boys’ privacy.
“While you are concerned that Thai media will disturb the Wild Boars, the foreign reporters have turned up in droves at their houses,” Mr Thepchai wrote
“They include ABC News, CBS and several others. They proudly declared that they had exclusive interviews with the children while the Thai media have been told to stay away,” he added.
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