Wife of abducted Muslim lawyer nominated to rights body

4The wife of a Muslim lawyer believed to have been abducted and murdered by security forces 11 years ago has been nominated for membership on the National Human Rights Commission. Angkhana Neelapaijit has fought tirelessly for justice for her husband and other victims of human rights abuses since her husband’s still unsolved disappearance in 2004.

Her nomination, along with six others, reflects a tolerance for diversity of opinions and background on the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), an important watchdog on government and society. A selection committee chose Angkhana and the others from a pool of 121 candidates to fill the seven-member commission. The terms of the current commissioners began in 2009 and will end this year.

“The announcement this week that Angkhana Neelapaijit has been nominated to the National Human Rights Commission is a ray of hope,’’ wrote The Nation newspaper in an editorial. “A professional nurse and housewife up until the time her husband was abducted … it wasn’t long before she became a leading authority on rights issues in Thailand, not to mention the insurgency in the South.”

Angkhana’s husband, Somchai Neelapaijit, was a noted human rights lawyer who sometimes represented those accused of being members of insurgent groups in the Muslim-majority Deep South where violence has taken the lives of over 6,000 people since 2004, the same year he disappeared. Several police officers were tried for allegedly abducting and murdering Somchai. Only one was convicted, and his conviction was later overturned on appeal.

Angkhana has sought justice for her husband ever since, appealing to successive prime ministers to solve the case, to no avail. Her activism for rights, however, almost immediately expanded beyond her family’s case to other causes, including those related to rights issues in the Deep South.

“Angkhana has been outspoken about ongoing rights violations amid a culture of impunity that exists among security officials, especially those working in the Muslim-majority southernmost provinces. She succeeded in putting a human face on the conflict, thus discrediting state agencies’ shallow analyses that depicted the militants as a bunch of drug-crazed youths indoctrinated by distorted history and Islamic teachings.”

“Angkhana has consistently stood her ground and maintained her integrity in the face of hostile opinion,” The Nation wrote.

The other nominees were Chatsuda Chandeeying, director of Chatsuda School in Samut Prakan; Boworn Yasinthorn, president of the Volunteer Network to protect three national institutions; Prakairat Toonteerawong, a lawyer; Wat Tingamitr, a former judge; Dr. Supachai Thanomsap, a physician; and Dr. Surachet Sathitniramai, a physician and ex-acting permanent secretary of the Public Health Ministry.

The list will be submitted the National Legislative Assembly for approval.

The NHRC was mandated by the 1997 constitution and formally established in 2001.


Thailand Focus July 28, 2015
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