We speak today with Dr. Soonruth Bunyamanee, past editor of the Bangkok Post.
What brought you to the Bangkok Post?
The pride and reputation of the Bangkok Post attracted me 26 years ago when I was a reporter at the Thai News Agency. The Bangkok Post’s reputation is widely known. The newspaper is well recognised locally and internationally. As Thai is the national language of Thailand, spoken by almost all of the population, it was particularly challenging to me to join this renowned English language newspaper, one of the only two major ones in the country at the time.
What are the biggest changes that you have seen in Thailand over the years?
The biggest change is the economy. Thailand’s economy and economic environment have developed dramatically over the past 25 years. Thailand’s financial system used to be one of the world’s weakest systems in 1997. Thailand is now today amongst the top nations with the largest foreign reserves. The Thai banking system remained resilient with high levels of capital funds and loan loss provisions to withstand a potential adverse impact from economic uncertainty.
What has stayed the same?
Thai politics remain unchanged. Power games in political parties continue to compete for ministerial seats and are the same as that happened decades ago. The country and the people’s interests seem to have less priority than their own interests in the eyes of many politicians. Having no true friends and permanent enemies is the dictum that is more than true in the case of Thai politics. Politicians can join together despite that they used to be political rivals if their interests can be settled by sharing.
All print journalism is going through wrenching changes now. What so you see is the future of the Bangkok Post?
Yes, like all other daily newspapers across the world, the Bangkok Post also bears the brunt of impact from technology disruption and the change of reader behaviour. With our subscription base, the future of the newspaper remains intact. Despite difficulty in the industry, we have entered into a partnership with other international media, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, to increase the newspapers value to our readers.
Still, we are forced to go online and diversify our businesses. Currently, the Bangkok Post is not only a newspaper. We are a news content provider through various platforms, staying in print and digital including various social media. In the side of business development, more projects are being explored.
What are the biggest changes you have seen at the Bangkok Post?
The biggest changes are our channels to offer news and information to our readers. We have produced the newspaper for 74 years. Now, our digital platforms have seen a marked expansion within the last decade. The Bangkok Post’s website page views are surging. It reached 84.73 million in 2019 and was accessed by around 16.68 million people. As of Q2 this year, the page views jumped to 17 million per month.
What has stayed the same?
Organisation culture and the mindset of people do not change fast enough to capture the fast changing technology and reader and customer behaviours. Many people still think that they are the staff of the newspaper and work in newspaper people style. This is a key problem in our transformation.
Since the Bangkok Post was started by Alexander MacDonald in 1946 it has always stood for truth and fairness. It prides itself on ‘Editorial Independence’ is this still true?
Yes, it is. Such stance and pride remain intact despite more pressures these days. We are still “the newspaper you can trust” as we have been for 74 years.
Andrew Biggs called not The Nation and the Bangkok Post ‘Champions of democracy’ how do you see them?
Thank you for such sweet words Andrew. One of our clear stances is to promote democracy. We prove ourselves by running many pro-democracy pieces over the past years despite that several of such articles caused us troubles one way or another.
What do you do for fun?
Reading astrology works, dining and feeding cats.
What is in the future for you?
I love astrology but I cannot exactly predict the future. What I want to do is to preserve the Bangkok Post’s reputation and materialise our digital transformation plan. I will do my best for the time being. You can create good future by creating a good present.
Life begins when you start to live it. So, I’d say, start living in Thailand. However, Covid19 transformed many things. Pre-covid19, I’d say do what the Thais do – say sorry when you make a mistake and smile. However, SARS-Cov2 nudged our evolutionary path more towards entropy, probably to correct that path. Thus, from this perspective, I think the biggest challenge for all of us now is how to co-exist with the virus, and try to make a difference in how we can help the world reduce its collateral damage.