The director of TAN, Thailand’s first 24-hour English News Channel, Sarocha Pornudomsak reveals how natural disasters and strong beliefs have shaped her life as a journalist.

I grew up in America. My parents moved to Los Angeles to start a business there when I was three.

My mom didn’t want me growing up with American values, like enjoying wild teenage years or free sex. So she decided to return to Thailand after we’d lived there for ten years.

A big earthquake in 1989 also really freaked us out. It hit many of our neighbors hard, so my parents decided to sell everything and move back to Thailand.

I was in culture shock when I moved back. I really hated living in Thailand. I felt that I was an American. I had to wake up at 5am to get to school by 7am. What’s that all about? I was used to being able to walk to school in just 15 minutes!

I also didn’t understand Thailand’s social constraints. Like juniors having to respect their seniors or the fact I couldn’t go out with boys. So many things that just never happened in the US.

I told my mom I would only stay here until I was 18. Then I would go to study in the US and not come back.

My relatives and friends helped me adjust to Thai culture. I was an only child, with no siblings. Then all of a sudden, I had at least 12 cousins. It’s quite fun. I had to try and remember all my cousins’ names.

I transformed from an American to a Thai girl after four years. I even cried when I had to go back to the US to study.

I was preparing to study at UCLA in California but again, there was a big earthquake in 1994. I was so scared. I ended up driving from California to Phoenix, Arizona in eight hours and managed to get a place at Arizona State University.

Both earthquakes are signals that have directed my life.

I thought it would be easy for me to go back to the US but it wasn’t.

I felt like a second-class citizen. My old friends had all grown up and my new friends weren’t who I wanted to hang out with. So I ended up hanging around with Thais and Asians.

I realized the US was not my home anymore. After graduating in broadcasting, I decided I wanted to go home.

I couldn’t work for Thai TV because my Thai wasn’t good enough, so I went to work with an export company for two years. Then Channel 11 called me to join their English news TV program, News Line.

I was then asked to join The Nation by Suthichai Yoon. I spent three years there, then two years at Singapore’s Network Channel News Asia as their Bangkok-based journalist. I had to be trained in Singapore for a year. I read the news from 8am-5pm, working non-stop for 14 days, then I’d get 4-5 days-off. It was pretty exhausting.

I met Sonthi Limthongkul who wanted someone to host his TV program Muang Thai Rai Subda (Thailand Weekly). I thought it was interesting so I joined him. I was promoted to be the director of TOC before we decided to re-brand TOC to TAN, the first 24 hour English news channel in Thailand.

Managing the news and people behind the scenes is the most difficult job in my life.

I don’t worry about taking sides even though I am a journalist. We’re still human. We have our own ideas and should do what we believe is the right thing.

It’s hard to find neutral media in Thailand but the audience can choose what channel they watch.

We can’t underestimate the audience. They’re smart and know how to find the truth by using the internet or other news sources to fact-check the media. Even the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) watch other media to evaluate the truth.

Divisions in Thai society make people follow politics much more closely but we have to respect other people’s opinion without violence. That will be real democracy.

People may see me as a tough woman; I don’t. I am just a normal person who has experienced good and bad things in life. I also worry about so many things, especially the lawsuits that I’m facing, including one where I am being branded a terrorist. That is the hardest, I even cry when I think about it.

I wish Thais would live more slowly and be less worried about contending so strongly for everything. Then our happiness will return.


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