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The editor of the online magazine The People has placed himself on a 30-day suspension and shut down the website for a week after it faced a backlash from monarchy supporters and the right-wing media for naming two advocates of monarchy reform as winners of its annual The People Awards.

Orawan Phuphong (left) and Tantawan Tuatulanon (right) accepting their award at the 5 April award ceremony. (Photo by Ginger Cat)

According to the magazine, the awards are given to 10 people who played a role in making a better future. Among its 2023 recipients were monarchy reform advocates Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong.

After the award ceremony on 5 April, The People began facing a backlash from right-wing media such as Top News and ultra right-wing groups like the Thai Move Institute, who also directed criticism at the Nation Group, which owns the magazine, and the Export-Import (EXIM) Bank of Thailand, who they claim is a sponsor for the awards.

The Nation Group issued a statement on 6 April that neither the company nor other media outlets it runs are involved in the awards, and that the company allows each editorial team to work independently. It also said that The People’s editorial team are the sole decision-makers behind the awards.

The statement also noted that the Nation Group is planning to sell its shares in the magazine, and has already negotiated a sale with a potential buyer.

“The Nation Group is a professional media institution and will steadfastly stand by our principles in our duty of being providers of useful information for the Thai public and to preserve the institutions of the nation, religions, and the monarchy,” said the statement.

Meanwhile, the EXIM Bank said that The People proposed to give it the Corporate of Tomorrow award and to use its logo during the award event. EXIM Bank agreed because it sees that the award is useful for making changes in the country, but that it is not involved in selecting the recipients and was not told in advance who the recipients are. 

EXIM said that it stands by the institutions of the nation, religions, the monarchy, and political neutrality, and that it does not support any action that is illegal or is involved in political conflict.

The People editor-in-chief and co-founder Anan Luepradit issued a statement saying that the awards are given to people who bring “positive changes” in Thailand in line with the magazine’s mission in producing content about people in every sector.

Anan explained that the recipients are selected by a committee made up of 7 experts from other organizations and Anan himself, and that the selection process is at the discretion of the committee alone without any input from the Nation Group or other partner organizations.

To take responsibility for the criticism, Anan has put himself on a 30-day suspension, from 7 April – 6 May, and closed the magazine’s website for a week, from 7 – 13 April.

Others recipients of the 2023 The People Awards are:

  1. the pop-punk band Paper Planes;
  2. Dr Cynthia Maung, founder of the Mae Tao Clinic in Mae Sot, which provides free healthcare for refugees and migrant workers;
  3. Maj Gen Paween Pongsirin, a senior police officer investigating Rohingya human trafficking who now lives in exile in Australia after fleeing Thailand for exposing high-ranking military officials’ involvement in trafficking;
  4. rapper and singer Danupha Khanatheerakul, better known by her stage name Milli, the first Thai woman solo artist to perform at Coachella;
  5. Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittipunt;
  6. snooker player Nutcharut Wongharuthai, now first in the World’s Women Snooker world rankings and winner of the 2022 World Mixed Doubles championship;
  7. Watanya Amatanon, Chief Product Officer at Forth Vending Co, the company behind the Tao Bin beverage vending machines;
  8. Joon Wanavit, founder of Hatari Electric; and
  9. former politician and massage parlour tycoon Chuwit Kamolvisit.
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