BANGKOK - Determined to reclaim Thailand's position as a country that values press freedom the most in Asia, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has vowed to push for laws that provide the media the needed protection to perform its functions of serving the public. Speaking before editors from Asian countries, media entities and guests at the 10th anniversary celebration of Asia News Network (ANN) at the Peninsula Hotel, Bangkok, this morning (March 6), Abhisit said proposed liberal media laws are underway. ANN is an alliance of 20 newspapers in 17 countries and the biggest media alliance worldwide in terms of readership. Among the laws being prepared are the amendment of the official information law, which will make information more accessible to the public; the enactment of the law on the protection of media professionals and a policy on regulating the electronic media. "Ten years ago, when Thailand looked at the freedom of the media table, we were right up there among the best. We used to claim that we were the region's best in terms of providing freedom for the media. These days, we look at the countries below us because we have fallen down and slipped down in this media table of freedom considerably in the last decade," he said. The Prime Minister lamented that there have been a decline on the relationship between the media and the government. Journalists often find themselves at odds with government officials. "I have every intention to reverse that trend," he said. With regard to the les majesty law, which provides criminal liability for criticising and attacking the monarchy of Thailand, Abhisit explained that this specific law has been in existence for a long time and he was "not sure" that this was the reason for media freedom decline. "The principle for this law, I don't think in itself, violates the principle of freedom of expression. The problem in recent past is that because there have been attempts to bring the monarchy down into the political context." "I'm aware of the problem. We will try to clarify the way how this law will be enforced," he said. Talking like a journalist in front of mostly media editors and practitioners, Abhisit noticed the challenges the technology poses to mainstream media. "We live in very challenging times. But also you also live through times where there will be new challenges in the thing that you do, particularly in technology," he says. Abhisit also challenged media practitioners in Asia to retain readership among the young people as they are the more adept to technology. "They are the first and quickest to report on technological changes and unless we are able to retain their readership. And of course the print media industry will also be threatened and also might even face decline," he said.Abhisit also tackled technology, which has been blurring the lines between consumers and journalists. "We are not talking about just consumers in this day in age when we talk about the Internet. The line between producers and consumers has been blurred and that's also true as far as news services and journalism is concerned because with blogs, with individual websites, with this technology, anybody can now claim to also be a reporter and a journalist. And a considerable challenge for you to demonstrate, there is still need professionalism with the things that you do. And by keeping up a with standards and ensuring the quality of your news and reports, that is the only to say no to people who aspire to be journalists and reporters by using the Internet without having the necessary qualification or knowledge or even ethical standards." "While the Internet and the electronic media provide further opportunities, they also bring on fresh and formidable challenges." The Prime Minister also touched on his speech various issues facing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) of which Thailand is the chairman. Fresh from hosting the Asean Summit, he said members of the regional grouping have reaffirmed the Asean community by 2015. The grouping, he mentioned, is committed to seek the full participation of the civil society and the need to engage the people. Asians, he said, should have more awareness as "Asian citizens and find common purpose to fully tap the potential of this region".