Somchai Neelapaijit Memorial Fund Prize for Outstanding Human Rights Defenders

On 11 July, Somchai Neelapaijit Memorial Fund will give out Somchai Neelapaijit Award to honor and support outstanding human rights defenders. Dr Charnvit Kasetsiri, former Rector of Thammasat University, will be the President of the Ceremony.

This award has started with an open nomination of the general public. There were more than 20 individuals and organizations that were nominated for the award. The Committee of Somchai Neelapaijit Fund shortlisted five individuals out of which one will be given this award. The rest will be given certificates in recognition of their works. The five names include individuals and organizations that are known publicly as well as those who work behind the scene. They all have recognizable records in the fight for rights in the judicial system, labor rights, community rights, and others.

The winner of the award will be granted 50,000 Thai Baht, while those four other shortlisted individuals and organizations will receive 10,000 Thai Baht each.

The award-giving ceremony will happen on 11 July 2012 at 9.30am – 12.00pm at Conference Room, Fourth Floor, Thai Volunteer Service, Huay Kwang District, Bangkok.

The five shortlisted for the 2012 Somchai Neelapajit Award are:

1. Ms Jittra Kotchadej, labour rights and political rights activist

2. Mr Rasada Manurasada, human rights lawyer for victims of violence in Southern Thailand and in other parts of the country

3. Mr Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, labour rights activist and political activist (currently detained in prison)

4. Mr Adisorn Kerdmongkol, expert on the rights of migrant workers

5. Udon Thani Environment Group, grassroots network of villagers that are defending the community rights from potash mining Industry.

Jon Ungpakorn, a committee member and the founder of Somchai Neelapaijit Memorial Fund, said that Thailand has been suffering from problems concerning human rights violations from both state agencies as well as from state mechanisms.

The five names that are shortlisted for this award are those who have fought to protect human rights bravely, vigorously, and at times they have put themselves in danger in order to defend human rights like the disappeared human rights lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit. Somchai had fought on behalf of human rights principles until he was a victim of enforced disappearance. This award aims to honor and support human rights defenders who have dedicated their lives in working to protect human rights. It also aims to communicate to Thai society to recognize the important roles that these individuals/groups play as well as to shed light on the human rights problems in Thailand, he said.

The Fund was established in 2005 with 800,000 baht he received from the Magsaysay Award.

Apart from the ceremony, there will be a panel discussion on the topic of “The road of struggle and experiences of Thai human rights defenders” by all five shortlisted individuals as well as a closing remark by Dr Charnvit Kasetsiri.

Somchai Neelapaijit Memorial Fund opened up the public nomination for individuals and organizations to nominate people and organizations from February to April 2012. There are 20 individuals and organizations that have been nominated. They represent broad and diverse groups of human right defenders ranging from those working on community development, volunteering, and combating injustice.

There are four criteria for the selection namely:

1) The recipient(s) of the award works to promote and protect the human rights on issues that are related to the public interest; 2) The recipient(s) has outstanding record;
3) The recipient(s) has not been given an award on human rights before;
4) The recipient(s) works on issue of human rights that is contemporary and still discussed in the society and he/she has risks from being attacked or violated for his/her /their human rights work. 

Somchai Neelapaijit Memorial Fund starts to give out Somchai Neelapaijit Award with the intention to honor and give support to those who play important roles and have dedicated themselves to promote and protect human rights in Thailand. The Fund also aims to provoke Thai society to see the importance and recognize the roles that human rights defenders play. The award is an open process whereby anyone can make nomination. This is the first year that the award is given out.

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