UNDP brings indigenous people radio experiences from Laos to Cambodia

Meeting about radio programme
Cambodian indigenous villagers meet with an official from Laos to share experience about indigenous people radio broadcast. (Photo: UNDP Cambodia)

Ratanak Kiri – Since 2007, the Jarai indigenous people have been enjoying a radio programme in their own language, which helps to inform them about news concerning their community and beyond. But the problem is it is too short. Its daily broadcast hours should be extended.

This was the message a group of indigenous people conveyed to visitors, including a delegation from Laos, who paid a visit to Ratanak Kiri province on Dec. 15.

Highlights

  • UNESCO supports the production of four 15-minute programmes per day, broadcast from Monday to Friday through state radio in Ratanak Kiri in four different indigenous languages – Kreung, Jarai, Brao and Tampuon.

“The programme is too short,” someone shouted in the Jarai language when a visitor asked how they liked the radio programme.

The encounter was among several activities of a Laos delegation’s trip to Cambodia organized and supported by UNDP Cambodia. The purpose of their trip was to share successful lessons of indigenous radio programme in Laos with the Cambodian national and provincial governments as well as community media practitioners through a workshop and field trip to Ratanak Kiri province.

Located in Cambodia’s northeast, the province broadcasts the country’s only indigenous language radio programme. Currently, UNESCO supports the production of four 15-minute programmes per day, broadcast from Monday to Friday through state radio in Ratanak Kiri in four different indigenous languages – Kreung, Jarai, Brao and Tampuon. It aims at improving indigenous people’s access to information and to improve their understandings about crucial issues such as health, agriculture, culture, laws and other educational issues.

Enthusiasm for the indigenous language radio among the Jarai people grew after they saw a video and photo slide show about the radio programme in Laos during the visit.

“How many steps did it take to make your radio programme a success?” Pors Gnorch, a 27-year-old Jarai man asked the Laos delegation.

The knowledge exchange revealed that the success of the radio programme in Laos starts from choosing the right topics. Before deciding on the topic for broadcasting, radio teams talk to community members to find out about problems they are facing and what they would like to hear from their community radio. Topics are decided, information collected and the radio report produced. It is then played back to communities to seek their approval before broadcast. 

Mr. Vongsone Oudomsouk, Programme Coordinator of Khoun and Thateng Radio Stations in Laos, said such a process is a very important part of a successful radio programme, which can also be applied in Cambodia.

“Go and talk to people before making a programme,” he said. “When the programme is about problems [the communities] are facing and about solutions to the problems, they will look forward to listening to it”.

Nearly 80 per cent of the indigenous villagers in the Khoun community in northern Laos listen to the radio. Programmes have led to positive behavior changes and improved understanding in the areas of gender, domestic violence, girls’ educations, maternal health and nutrition.

The success of the programme led to the construction of another radio station in Thateng district in the Southern Laos in 2010 and several others have since followed.

Mr. Nguon Krek, the indigenous radio programme coordinator in Ratanakiri, couldn’t agree more with Mr. Vongsone’s advice.

“It’s a great idea to talk to people in the community about a topic of broadcast. When they know that we are broadcasting about their needs, they will wait to listen. I will suggest and discuss this idea to my team members,” said Mr. Nguon Krek.

Local volunteerism is another contributor to the success of the radio programmes in Laos, which was a valuable insight for the Cambodian indigenous people radio team. In Laos’ Khoun and Thateng communities, some 80 local volunteers help produce programmes, covering jobs from looking for topics to producing the radio reports.
Admitting that it is hard for her to earn the trust and get information from indigenous people, Thin Sao Un, a 20-year-old reporter from the Brao indigenous group, said she found the exchange very useful.

“I am interested most in their idea of involving the local volunteers to produce the programme. When people from the community do the job, it is easy to get information and people also want to listen to the voices of their relatives or friends in the programme,” she said after talking to the Laos team.

UNDP Cambodia will continue to work to promote similar opportunities for knowledge exchange between Cambodia and other countries in the region, while working with government and civil society to generate more opportunities for indigenous voices in the media as part of their participation the development process.