Gwangju Spirit: The Gwangju Laureate Ms. Angkhana Neelapaijit from Thailand Honored with the Magsaysay Award 2019

Ms Angkhana Neelapaijit was born in Bangkok, Thailand and did her graduate work at the Faculty of Nursing, Mahidol University Salaya Thailand. Before her human rights activism, she was living a happy life with her husband in Bangkok. Ms Angkhana became transformed into a human rights activist when her husband, Mr Somchai Neelapaijit, who was a prominent human rights lawyer in Bangkok was abducted by a group of police officers in March 12, 2004. 

The unexpected enforce disappearance of her husband turned her happy life into a painful journey and took her on an arduous path which she never thought she would be able to travel. From a caring housewife, looking after her husband and five children, she turned into a fearless defender of human rights, working tirelessly for the return of her husband and supporting many other individuals whose rights were violated. Due to her fearless and vigorous effort, Ms Angkhana Neelapaijit has been attacked and has received multiple death threats.

In April 2006, the May 18 Memorial Foundation recognized her fearless human rights struggle, commitment, and dedication by nominating her for the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights. For Ms Angkhana Neelapaijit, the Gwangju Prize was the first award to acknowledge her sincere efforts and which enhanced her confidence and also brought her into the circle of renowned international human rights defenders.

Ms Angkhana founded the Justice for Peace Foundation a human rights organization in Thailand and started working persistently to help the victims of human rights abuses in Thailand. The mission to protect human rights made her one of Thailand’s most prominent women human rights defenders.

The Gwangju Prize for Human Rights provided her with the moral and monetary support when she was fighting against her husband’s enforced disappearance in court. Besides this, the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights also opened new international human rights platforms and avenues for her. In 2006, she won the “Women Human Rights Defender” prize honoured by the European Parliament. On 2010, she was honoured with the “De Chevalier De I’Ordre de la Le’gion d’Honneur” award from the French President. On July 2013, she was also honoured by the UN as “Women of Achievement”.    

In 2015, she was nominated as the Human Right Commissioner in Thailand, and she has worked fearlessly for the promotion of human rights in Thailand. However, in July 2019, she resigned from her position due to the hindrances she encountered by the Junta.

On August 2019, shortly after her resignation, she was nominated for the Ramon Magsaysay Award 2019. However, even with all these human rights awards, her struggle is more vigorous and vibrant than ever against injustices and human rights violations in Thailand. Overall, it shows that the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights is spreading the May 18 Spirit and providing moral support to these humble souls who are standing against all these injustices and human rights violations all around the world. 

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