Published: 18 Jul 2013 at 00.00 Newspaper section: News
The perception of Thai rice is plunging, with rumours of chemical contamination
putting the government, rice millers and rice packers under the spotlight.
Another person also feeling the heat is TV Burapha Co managing director
Sutthipong Thammawuthi, whose company produces Khon Khon Khon (People Searching
People), the popular television documentary programme.
His Facebook post, which listed the names of popular brands he said were selling
rice subject to excessive fumigation went viral, and now he faces multiple
lawsuits due to a lack of evidence behind his claims.
Faced with legal troubles, Sutthipong came out to apologise to the brands he had
mentioned. He said he had simply reposted information from his friend as he
thought it would be useful knowledge for consumers.
But like it or not, many consumers now believe there are grains of truth in the
rotten rice rumour, and think Sutthipong, who is involved in organic rice social
enterprises, might well have some insider information from rice farmers.
His post and the subsequent uproar have succeeded in alerting the public about
food safety. Now when we buy packed rice we will certainly spend more time
checking its package and manufacturing and expiry dates, as well as scanning the
grain inside to see whether it has bugs or not. That's good for consumers.
The public should heave a deep sigh of relief now that the Foundation for
Consumers has found that all 46 brands of packed rice under its food safety test
are free from residues from toxic pesticides and fungicide.
As for methyl bromide which is used for fumigation to prevent insects, only one
of them contains residues that exceed the Codex General Standard for Food
additives. Mr Sutthipong can also breathe a sigh of relief. After his formal
apology, agro giant CP has decided to lift a lawsuit against him.
But another important thing that we have learned from Sutthipong is the impact
of sharing information on social media, and the responsibilities that come with
it. Before we post or share information on social media like Facebook and
Twitter, we should think carefully about its consequences.
In this case, the TV executive may have just reposted a message, but many people
thought it was a Sutthipong original as he didn't quote any source.
This intensified public distrust in rice safety given the government's failure
to counter the rumours.
I don't know how many people will stop sharing information on Facebook after all
the racket and all the lawsuits following Sutthipong's post. A media expert told
me, however, that we can still click the share button if the information is
useful to other people or society, such as information about missing children or
The more people know about these types of messages, the greater the chance that
people can get help. So please do not be shy. Who knows? Your information
sharing may help save someone's life.
But be sure to clarify the source of information. This will protect you and it
will help those reading the message to weigh up its credibility.
And another concern on Facebook is clicking "Like" on your friends' messages and
pictures. Before you click "Like", please consider if you should.
I have two cases for you to chew over. First, actress Inthira Charoenpura
clicked "Like" for a page about drinking during the Buddhist Lent period. She
was subject to widespread criticism on social media.
The second case is about my relative, whose 90-year-old grandmother had just
died. She posted a picture of her with her grandma, and said she missed her.
Some friends wrote in with condolences for her loss. The number of "Likes" was
Do you think we should click "Like" for her grief? For me, I think not.
The line between propriety and impropriety is very thin and we may cross it any
time unintentionally. So, think carefully before you post and share information
on social media. Remember always that you must be responsible for it.
Krissana Parnsoonthorn is Deputy Business Editor, Bangkok Post.
Fire ravaged a Buddhist monk's shop, which sold fireworks among other items, in downtown Songkhla's Hat Yai district yesterday.
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