FAR SOUTH / MEDIA, DAILY VIOLENCE
CASHING IN ON THE FRONT LINE
Reporter in troubled South doing well
Story by WASSANA NANUAM
Before the latest outbreak of southern violence began in January 2004, reporter Sulaiman Waemamah, a local stringer, found it tough to make ends meet. It is a different story now. He admits to making a small fortune from his daily coverage of the violence _ a true story of rags to riches.
However, Mr Sulaiman risks life and limb for the money. The 32-year-old stringer began his career at Channel 3 and Thai Rath newspaper in 1999, earning about 8,000 baht a month, when the South was quiet.
As the violence escalated Mr Sulaiman had extra work from Channel 5.
It is normal for local stringers to work with more than one news outlet _ a television station, a newspaper or a radio station _ because they are paid a piecework rate rather than a salary.
''Thanks to the violence, my earnings have risen significantly,'' he said.
Journalist Sulaiman Waemamah smiles as he gets out of his new car, which he bought with the money he made reporting on the southern insurgency since 2004. — JETJARAS NA RANONG
''Some months I earn 60,000 to 80,000 baht. I have saved more than one million baht,'' said Mr Sulaiman.
He declined to reveal just how much he had earned throughout the four years of insurgency, saying only it was a seven-figure amount.
He spent some of the money on essential equipment for his job _ including a vehicle and a digital camera.
Last year he bought a house for nearly one million baht and still had enough to buy a new pickup truck on instalment.
He predicts the situation in the deep South will be drawn out over another five years. ''Even if a by-product of the southern violence is my increasing income, it doesn't mean I want to reap financial benefits from the blood of the innocent. I truly want peace to be restored.
''Frankly, I risk my life in return for the money I am making,'' Mr Sulaiman said.
He said he did not enjoy putting his life at risk because he had married two years ago and had a month-old daughter. He needed to exercise extra caution every time he went out to get a story.
As a Muslim, Mr Sulaiman carries no sacred talisman, relying on a handgun and bulletproof vest to protect himself.
Even though two TV channels and Thai Rath offered him group life insurance, he did not feel the 100,000-baht coverage was enough, so he has had to purchase a policy himself.
''Today I have a wife and a daughter, I'm not a single man anymore, so I have to be very careful,'' he said.
''My life means a lot to my family.''