Justice Seeker for 2010 Crackdown Victims Dies

A draft of the memorial for the 2010 crackdown victims designed by Elizabeth Polenghi (image provided by Jarupan Kuldilok)

BANGKOK — The Italian photographer-turned-activist who campaigned for justice on behalf of victims of the 2010 crackdown, including her own brother, passed away last night.

Elizabeth Polenghi died at a hospital in Milan, Italy, where she had been hospitalised for pancreatic cancer, Prachatai reports. She was 51.

A photographer and artist by profession, Ms. Polenghi turned to activism shortly after her brother, photojournalist Fabio Polenghi, was shot dead while covering the Thai military’s assault on Redshirt protesters in downtown Bangkok on 19 May, 2010.

Citing ample evidence and numerous witnesses, a 2013 court inquest ruled that the military was most likely responsible for Fabio's death, despite its insistence otherwise.


Ms. Polenghi has made numerous trips to Thailand—an expense she covered by selling her photography studio, she said—to seek justice on behalf of her brother and other victims who lost their lives in the 2010 unrest. She had also expressed her opposition to the idea of granting amnesty to politicians and military leaders behind the crackdown.

Her quest for accountability from the Thai authorities, whom Ms. Polenghi once described as plagued by the culture of impunity, was featured in a 2011 BBC documentary, "Thailand: Justice on Fire."

"She has devoted the last years of her life to uncovering the truth for the world," said Jarupan Kuldilok, a former Pheu Thai MP and associate of Ms. Polenghi.

Ms. Jarupan said she and her fellow activists intend to continue Ms. Polenghi's fight for justice by filing a complaint to a European court if the Thai justice system fails to prosecute the authorities who approved the deadly crackdown in 2010.

The former Pheu Thai MP, who provided assistance to Ms. Polenghi during her stays in Thailand, added that she last saw Ms. Polenghi on 29 May 2013, when the court ruled on the circumstances of Fabio's death. 

According to Ms. Jarupan, Ms. Polenghi left her with two instructions before she passed away: to pursue Fabio's case to the end for the sake the rule of law, and to construct a memorial in honour of journalists who were killed and wounded during the political unrest of April-May 2010.

Ms. Polenghi has already provided her with a detailed plan of the memorial, Ms. Jarupan said. The memorial—dubbed "Frames"—will consist of a large rectangular concrete frame, symbolising a camera viewfinder, set in a pond in Lumpini Park, close to where Fabio lost his life.

The draft also features the inscription, "Freedom of Information Guarantees Human Rights," on the memorial. 

Ms. Jarupan said her organisation, the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), will discuss the draft of the memorial and campaign for its construction, though its location and physical design may be altered. 

Fabio Polenghi was one of two journalists who died in the 2010 unrest; the other was Hiroyuki Maramoto, a Japanese national who was working as a cameraman for Reuters. Many other journalists, both Thai and foreign, were also injured by the violence.



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