Legendary journalist John McBeth passes away, leaving a legacy of his 62-year career

Photo courtesy of Newstalk ZB

New Zealand journalist John McBeth‘s passing in Jakarta at 79 on December 6 has left a void, but his legacy echoes through decades of groundbreaking journalism.

McBeth, an unapologetic old school reporter, carved his niche in Asia, scorning those fleeting colleagues. Embracing his role as an Asian lifer, he stood as a stalwart amidst transitory pens. His extensive career meandered through South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia, shaping the course of history with his unflinching narratives.

Venturing into the abyss of Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge’s reign, McBeth emerged as one of the first Western journalists to expose the horrors within. His relentless pursuit led him to survivors, the stark truth unfolding after arduous bus journeys from Bangkok. The incredulity faced by McBeth’s early reports gradually gave way to a chilling reality: Cambodian refugees trapped in the Khmer Rouge’s minefields, a testament to his unyielding dedication.

McBeth’s earlier writings exposed the harsh realities of the Indochinese refugee crisis and the Vietnam War. His passionate accounts shed light on the plight of refugees and the victims of war. He fearlessly tackled the grim tales of Thai pirates, revealing the brutal crimes against Vietnamese boat people. McBeth’s pen became a force for those silenced by conflict, a champion for the dispossessed, reported Bangkok Post.

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Weathering five coups, McBeth’s journey included the heart-wrenching episode that claimed his close friend, Australian cameraman Neil Davis, in 1985. Amidst the chaos, McBeth remained a larger-than-life figure in Bangkok’s press corps, encapsulating the grit and vigour of a man deeply enamoured with Thailand and its people. Paisal Sricharatchanya, former Editor of the Bangkok Post, hailed his impact on journalism.

“John has been both a close professional colleague and a good personal friend.”

McBeth’s legacy transcends his passing. His writings reverberate in the annals of Asian journalism, influencing policymakers and shaping narratives. Through the decades, he not only reported but lived the stories he uncovered, leaving an indelible mark on the regions he touched.

Thailand News

Puntid Tantivangphaisal

Originally from Hong Kong, Puntid moved to Bangkok in 2020 to pursue further studies in translation. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong. Puntid spent 8 years living in Manchester, UK. Before joining The Thaiger, Puntid has been a freelance translator for 2 years. In her free time, she enjoys swimming and listening to music, as well as writing short fiction and poetry.

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