BANGKOK — Former National Human Rights Commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit was named a winner of the 2019 Ramon Magsaysay Award on Friday, for courageous service to the people and integrity in governance.
The announcement by the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation came only days after Angkhana, along with fellow commissioner Tuengja Deetes, announced their resignations as caretaker human rights commissioners amid speculation that the installation of a pro-junta government has made their work untenable.
Angkhana was in charge of investigating infringements on civil and political rights during the five tumultuous years under the military junta, which saw the powers of the commission downgraded.
Angkhana, one of five awardees, said she was honored and humbled to receive the award.
“Thanks to my family, colleagues and friends who always support and stand with me during all the difficult situations,” Angkhana wrote on her Facebook page before noon Friday.
Angkhana, 63, a former nurse, entered the human rights field a decade-and-a-half ago after her husband, human rights lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit, was forcibly disappeared in March 2004. No one has been punished for his disappearance. Earlier in 2006, Angkhana win the prestigious Gwangju Prize for Human Rights.
In a resignation letter posted on Facebook on Wednesday, Angkan wrote that the working environment “no longer enables constructive work and allows for a systematic protection of human rights”.
Angkhana said on the phone Friday that she will continue to advocate for human rights including issues regarding violations in the Deep South.
She added that she will push for amendments to the Enforced Disappearance and Anti-Torture Bill, whose content was diluted by the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly before the elections. “It needs to be amended with input from civil society,” she stressed.
Past Thai laureates of the prestigious award include slum activist Prateep Ungsongtham Hata and family planning activist Meechai Viravaidya.