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Interview with Richard Werly of the Gavroche newspaper for Francophones in Thailand

Interview with Richard Werly, editorial advisor of the Gavroche and correspondent for France and European affairs of the Swiss daily Le Temps.

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1. Could you introduce yourself and tell us why you were brought to Thailand?

Gavroche and Thailand are for me two old stories, closely related to my career path. Judge instead: gavroche’s creation dates back to 1994. This French-language publication holds a record in Southeast Asia: 25 years of age! What, for an independent newspaper, funded by its readers and by advertising, is a feat that should be welcomed and which, in my opinion, makes a clear difference. An example is the ongoing digitization of Gavroche Magazine’s complete archives. More than 500 issues, a unique testimony to the history of Thailand and the Mekong countries. Gavroche-Thailand is this: an undeniable piece of history, a mirror in which our readers can look at each other and find themselves.

I was a young correspondent in Thailand in 1994 when this newspaper was created. I quickly collaborated on it and I saw its birth, so to speak. I have kept a column, entitled Rebond, since 2010, as a distant observer of Thailand, since my assignments for Le Temps have taken me successively to Japan, Geneva, Brussels and then Paris. To imagine that Gavroche, because of the economic difficulties inherent in the press, would disappear, was deeply shocking to me. That is why I have agreed to provide editorial support to the takers.

2. Could you introduce us to Gavroche and his team? What’s your plan?

Gavroche-Thailand is currently in the middle of a recovery period. The new round of shareholders and partners was completed last August, following the departure of Philippe Plénacoste, the historical host of the publication whose courage and tenacity I can never stress enough. Since then, I have advised the Three-Person Bangkok Editorial Board, assisted by freelance collaborators. A new permanent editor has just been hired. The team will then grow.

Gavroche, let’s remember, offers three information platforms to its readers and advertisers: a web platform, a monthly magazine, and weekly newsletters. The originality of our project is to work currently on a variation of Gavroche and these platforms in Africa. Within a year, this African partnership should be in place, offering our advertisers a unique French-speaking international dimension.

3. How can I subscribe?

All you need to do is log on to the www.gavroche-thailande.com website, subscription section. A new website will soon be in place. The magazine’s subscription forms will be simplified and easy to access. The cultural newsletter is free. Another specificity of the project is the creation of a cell for the creation of editorial content in French for brands. The Gavroche Agency already produces texts for the platforms of several customers. One idea is also to organize, in Bangkok, in 2019, a Gavroche festival. Progress and recovery are step by step. With the utmost respect for our competitors who also contribute to the vitality of the Region’s Francophone community.

4. What advice would you give to young expats in Thailand?

Thailand is an easy-to-reach country. The values of Thai society, very imbued with Buddhism, are obviously far removed from those in French society. Language is also difficult. But Thais are welcoming, open, respectful and friendly to foreigners.

My advice to young French people wishing to go abroad? First document yourself. Nothing is worse than seeing Thailand as a permissive, easy country, where all excesses are allowed. Understanding the culture of the country is essential.

Another tip: have two or three relays on site. People you can trust you.

Third tip: be yourself. Thais do not expect young French people to copy Asian ways. So work French, be resourceful. But always bearing in mind an indispensable restraint: this country is not yours. Enjoy it that way.

5. What do you think of the health system in Thailand?

I will answer your question in two stages.

First time: the health and medical infrastructure.

It’s of a very good level. This is one of the areas in which Thailand has made the most progress in the last two decades. Everywhere you’ll find English-speaking doctors. Medications are easy to obtain. Hospitals are clean, well-kept. Emergency services are welcoming and professional. More and more specialized clinics are also offering their services.

Second time: the notion of a health system. In France, this means social security, reimbursement, etc. Forget about it in Thailand. Everything is paid cash. Hence the importance of having good insurance before leaving, and always keeping with you a sufficient amount of money in the event of an accident for example. I insist on insurance. Thailand is a country where good insurance contracts are available, contracted or not from France. It’s an imperative.

6. Reading tips?

Read first the international press: Le Monde, Le Figaro… and of course Time! Read also Gavroche-Thailand! But not only that. Other well-informed websites exist. But mostly read a few reference books. I quote “The 101 preconceived ideas about Thailand” just published by our collaborator Eugenie Merieau. My former colleague Arnaud Dubus also published a very good “Thailand” editions The Discovery. For the region, I can only recommend the books from the “Soul of the Peoples” collection that I manage at Nevicata Editions. We have volumes on Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos!

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