| BANGKOK, July 16
BANGKOK, July 16 Thai food conglomerate Charoen
Pokphand Foods PCL (CPF) denied on Wednesday bribing
journalists to promote its products and image after an
independent media watchdog said it had a document that shows an
unnamed food firm had engaged in such practices.
The watchdog, Thailand Information Centre for Civil Rights
and Investigative Journalism (TCIJ), said on its website this
week that a "large, national level food conglomerate that
operates domestically and internationally" had allocated senior
reporters and editors payments ranging between $310 and $7,800 a
month to write favourable reports about the company.
The report said the head of the company was a "well-known
figure, ranked one of the richest men in the world". It said it
had based its findings on a document it had obtained from a
person at an agribusiness firm.
The allegations were widely distributed on social media in
Thailand, with many bloggers saying the report raised concerns
about corruption in the Southeast Asian country, where bestowing
lavish gifts on corporate clients is common practice.
While the TCIJ report did not specifically name CPF, there
are very few companies in Thailand that fit the description in
the report. CPF is Thailand's largest meat and animal feed
producer and the flagship unit of Charoen Pokphand Group, which
is owned by Thailand's richest man Dhanin Chearvanont.
In a statement, Punninee Nanthapanich, senior vice-president
of CPF, said the document the TCIJ was citing was an adulterated
report from its public relations department.
"Charoen Pokphand Group (CPF) clarifies that payments to the
media were normal advertising payments made by our public
relations department," Punninee said in the statement.
"However, we have a budget too for special press events
including charity golf tournaments and seminars. We have never
used money to pay off the media to conceal or distort news."
TCIJ published excerpts of the document, which its director
Suchada Jakpisut said was more than 1,000 pages long, that
showed a list of blacked-out names under a heading "journalists"
with various monetary amounts beside each name.
Another section lists the names of several media outlets.
TCIJ did not respond to a Reuters request to see the whole
"Payments and gifts are a big problem and it doesn't just
concern the media. If the big newspapers and others take money
from big corporations how can they be neutral," TCIJ director
Suchada told Reuters.
Thailand's military took power in a May coup after months of
street protests aimed at ousting the government. It has since
imposed restrictions on media in Thailand, which ranked 130 out
of 180 countries on the 2014 World Press Freedom Index.
($1 = 32.1500 Thai Baht)
(Editing by Miral Fahmy)