Rights lawyer wins Somchai Neelaphaijit Award
- Published: 11/07/2012 at 02:12 PM
- Online news:
Ratsada Manurasada, a human rights lawyer, was on Wednesday presented with the Somchai Neelaphaijit Award at a warm ceremony for his tireless volunteer service to help marginalised people.
Human rights lawyer Ratsada Manurasada (L) is presented with the Somchai Neelaphaijit Award by history professor Charnvit Kasetsiri on July 11, 2012. (Photos by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)
History professor and well-known contemporary social thinker Charnvit Kasetsiri presented the inaugural Somchai Neelaipaijit Award for human rights defenders at the Sujitra Auditorium, Thai Volunteer Service.
There were five finalists.
Mr Ratsada, 52, who has worked on human rights cases for more than half of his two-decades plus career in law, was presented with a cheque for 50,000 baht and the main prize. The other four nominees each received 10,000 baht.
Mr Ratsada has previously been awarded a human rights token by the National Human Rights Commission and named an outstanding lawyer by the Lawyers' Council.
He said at the ceremony he was proud to be presented with the Somchai Award. The dedicated Muslim lawyer, who is missing believed murdered, was his role model in providing legal assistance to anyone big or small, Muslims or not, whose rights were being violated, he said.
He said Somchai was "forcefully disappeared" by the thuggish authorities as he was helping defend Muslims in Thailand's southern border provinces.
Mr Ratsada thanked the Neelaphaijit family and the Thai Volunteer Service for grooming a new breed of lawyer focusing on human rights violation cases. He also lauded other grassroots fighters, such as the Bo Nok-Hin Krud environmental group.
He paid tribute to his own father, a lawyer representing the poor and the people against violation by capitalists and state agencies, for setting an example for him to follow.
"There is a real pleasure, an elation, in being able to help others whose rights are threatened or abused because human rights is a basis for peace and democracy in the country," said Mr Ratsada.
While touching on the heavy-handed measures of the police and military forces in dealing with southern insurgency cases, Mr Ratsada also pointed to the flawed judicial system evident in cases such as the late "Uncle SMS" and Somyot Preuksakasemsuk, who were denied bail as lese majeste defendants. This had generated feelings of great injustice, he said.
The other finalists included Jitra Kotchadet, who has a long record of working and campaigning for the protection of the basic rights of workers in factories and was dismissed unfairly by the Triumph International Company.
Ms Jitra, 40, attributed her receiving the award to her fellow workers and the independent online media site Prachatai, for showing such long time solidarity for the rights of workers to freedom of association.
Another finalist, the Udon Thani Environmental Group, was represented by vice chair Manee Boonrod. She asked society not to turn a deaf ear to the voices of villagers defending the rights of communities to define and engage in their preferred development projects.
"It was claimed the project would benefit the nation but could not be built elsewhere else but in our locality, so why were we excluded from allof the decision making and hearing process? Why did the authorities collude with capitalists in violating the people's rights? said Ms Manee.
The Udon Thani Environment Group, created from the gathering of villager groups from 16 sub-districts from Prachak Silapakhom and Muang districts, began campaigning against Potash mining in 2000 and was officially set up as a group two years later.
The group's members have faced arrest and other kinds of harassment but remain unwavering in advocating the rights of people in the Northeast to self-determination in large-scale development projects affecting the region.
A fourth nominee, Sukunya Prueksakasemsuk, wife of a lese majeste defedant Somyos who has been detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison since April last year, offereed her heartfelt thanks to all the members of the Somchai Neelaphaijit Memorial Fund for their care and courage in considering her husband's profile.
Somyos, Mrs Sukunya said, has more failures than successes in his career as a union advocate. Any successes, such as the Eden textile company, where a year-long protest resulted in the law being amended to provide larger salary compensation for laid-off workers, were joint efforts involving the workers, not her husband acting alone.
Adisorn Kerdmongkol, 38, received the award for his tireless campaigning for the authorities and people in society to change their negative views about migrant workers.
"The layers of the migrant problem are thick-- it is all the problems that other workers face, plus being belittled and shunned by the rest of society," said Mr Adisorn.
He was disturbed when migrants were excluded and abused, particularly in times of crisis such as the tsunami and flooding.
"Why does this happen in Thailand, which claims to be a democratic and Buddhist society?" Mr Adisorn said.
He was also bothered by a standard notion that why Thailand had to help foreign migrant workers, "We tend to consider either the economic benefit or the security problem, but not their plight as a human being."
From Left: Adisorn Kerdmongkol, Ratsada Manurasada, Sukunya Prueksakasemsuk, Jitra Kotchadet and Manee Boonrod
About the author
- Writer: Achara Ashayagachat