Isa Polenghi, sister of Italian photojournalist killed in 2010 violence, dies at 50

Elisabetta Polenghi, Italian photographer and younger sister of Fabio Polenghi, who was killed during Thailand’s political violence in 2010, passed away in Italy on Monday late afternoon local time, or 10 pm Thailand time, according to family members. 
 
Elisabetta or “Isa” passed away at around 5pm in Milan, where she had been hospitalized for terminal pancreatic cancer. She was 50. 
 
As a professional photographer based in Milan, Isa became involved in Thailand after her brother Fabio Polenghi was killed on May 19, 2010, during the military crack-down on red shirt protesters that resulted in 94 deaths. She immediately came to Thailand to gather evidence and find the truth about what happened to her brother. 
 
In May last year, the Southern Bangkok Criminal Court ruled in an inquest that Fabio had been shot by a bullet coming from the direction of the army on Ratchadamri Road. It did not however specify who killed Fabio, then 48 years old.  
 
Isa came to Thailand at least nine times to pursue justice. Slowly she got involved in activism calling for justice together with the families of those who were killed in the 2010 violence.
 
In her enthusiasm to learn about Thailand’s human rights issues, Isa became friends with Phayao Akhad, mother of the volunteer nurse Kamonked Akhad who was shot in Pathum Wanaram temple on the same day that Fabio was killed, and attended the funeral of Amphon Tangnoppakul, a 61-year-old who died in jail accused of violating the lèse majesté law, among other things.  
 
In October 2013, she was one of the voices opposing the blanket amnesty bill, which the ruling Pheu Thai Party attempted to pass to whitewash responsibility for political violence from 2004 onwards.  
 
Kwanravee Wangudom from the People’s Information Center, who documented the 2010 deaths from political violence and was a close friend of Isa, said Isa always wanted the case of Fabio to be a part of the struggle for justice along with other Thai victims of the violence, and that Thai and foreign victims should not be separated. 
 
“She loved and felt involved with Thailand. Even though it was the country where her brother died and those who ordered the killing never showed responsibility, she never hated Thailand.” said Kwanravee. “On the contrary, she felt warmed by the friendship given to her from people she never knew before.” 
 
Last time Isa visited Thailand was in May last year for the inquest on her brother. That was also when she launched an exhibition and photo book of Fabio’s last photos in Thailand during the red shirt rallies in April-May 2010. 
 
Elisabetta Polenghi is survived by her mother Laura Chiorri and her elder sister Arianna Polenghi. 
 

Elisabetta Polenghi during Fabio's photo exhibition at the Foreign Correspondent Club of Thailand in May 2013.
 
 
Correction: April 29, 2014
Elisabetta Polenghi dies at 50 years old, not 51 as stated in an earlier version of this article.
 
 
 

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