The pen has often proven most potent in
graphic portrayals. Especially is this true in less literate societies where
the cartoon can carry an even more telling message. Mastery of this talent
and its employment to illuminate public issues, however, is an art possessed
only by a very few. Their technical skill must be complemented by a special
receptivity to the often unvoiced yearnings of their fellow citizens.
PRAYOON demonstrated his talent early; as a schoolboy he could not resist
sketching cartoons and comics. When misfortune impoverished the family, he
was compelled to leave school and find employment as a mail clerk weighing
parcels in a railway station. Although frustrated by the dull routine, this
experience of physical drudgery broadened his insights when he later found
an opportunity to illustrate stories and write heads on the newspaper
In 1938, at the age of 23, PRAYOON became a full-fledged cartoonist with a
comic series in the likay style of Thai folk musical drama. His professional
alter ego Suklek—a diminutive elfin character with a jaunty feather in his
headband—whom he first popularized as Chantakorob, an epic hero, in time
acquired a public personality.
The mark of PRAYOON's stature is his refusal to be content with simply
entertaining the public. Rather, conveying an understanding that is more
than verbal, he uses his drawings to educate in the most fundamental sense.
The issues that become his concern are those affecting every Thai. Seeking
to improve the condition of his time, his subjects range from lampooning
those who would employ office to further personal power and wealth to
supporting the cause of the poor.
In order to retain his independence as a social and political critic,
PRAYOON will not accept regular employment as a cartoonist. Instead, he
sells his editorial cartoons and comic strips individually. Such major daily
newspapers as Thai Rath, Siam Rath and the Bangkok Post, and Krung Thep a
news magazine, are regular purchasers of these well-liked features the help
build circulation. He takes an intense interest in municipal government and
civic programs involving children and, since 1948, has also edited and
served as company consultant for the weekly magazine Siam Samai. But time is
always set aside for tending the orchids and rabbits he raise among the
durian trees in his two-acre orchard where he finds both inspiration and
As as independent thinker with humanitarian views, sometime leavened with
delightful humor, PRAYOON has adhered to his code of an absolutely free
conscience. Avoiding contact with those institutions and individuals he is
persuaded do not serve the community good, he has offered Thais and others
encouraging reaffirmation that a gifted pen can defend the cause of truth
with decency, courage and artistic sensitivity.
In electing PRAYOON CHANYAVONGS to receive the 1971 Ramon Magsaysay Award
for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts, the Board of
Trustees recognizes his use of pictorial satire and humor for over three
decades in unswerving defense of the public interest.