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Thailand Pampers Journalists Covering APEC Summit - 2003-10-20

Thailand is taking a hands-on approach to the more than 4,000 journalists covering the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bangkok. Thai masseuses are pampering stressed-out members of the media.

From carpal tunnel syndrome to aching feet, the press corps in Bangkok is showing the wear and tear of covering more than 21 world leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit. And the summit's host, Thailand, clearly understands that.

After a long, hard day of work, journalists are being treated to free 30-minute traditional Thai foot massages while leaning back in big, cushioned, comfortable chairs at the The Queen Sirikit Convention Center.

One woman journalist from Indonesia says she has enjoyed the massage daily since arriving last week in Thailand.

"We are very tired, you know," said the reporter. "We go there, we go somewhere around, and we need something [to] refresh us,and I think this is the best way to make us refresh[ed]."

The convention center, which hosts events ranging from book fairs to textile marts, also offers several other pleasurable perks for the usually downtrodden journalist.

There is a bank, travel agent, photo shop and food court serving up Thai, Japanese, Chinese and Western food.

Press members are also given $7 worth of food coupons daily, more than enough to eat three meals a day. The only thing they have to pay for is beer.

The Department of tourism has arranged for a number of complimentary tours in and around Bangkok for journalists ranging from a tour of the Royal Grand Palace and nearby temples to elephant rides and bamboo rafting in a rainforest 130 kilometers west of Bangkok.

Song, a guide from the Department of Tourism who runs the tours, says he expects full bookings for tours after the APEC summit ends on Tuesday. He says he enjoys meeting journalists from different countries.

"Quite interesting in that I see different people from different points of view. Many of them are from finance, many of them are from education, or politics, so different things they share to me," said the guide.

While journalists may be de-stressed from the special treatment given to them at the summit, there are still some headaches.

Busaba Bushyakanist, senior public relations officer at the center, says dealing with so many journalists from so many different countries has been difficult.

"Some journalists does not have the documents that we require, just like assignment letter, and do not forget to bring his passport, his press card, and when we do not give them the press ID, they just do not look happy to us," she said.

After the crush of journalists has headed home, APEC public relations officers will likely need some indulgence, too.