ASIA: Angkhana, Suciwati and Padma named for Korean award
(Hong Kong, March 30, 2006) The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) on Thursday nominated Angkhana Neelaphaijit, Suciwati Munir and Padma Perera to receive jointly the 2006 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights.
The Hong Kong-based regional rights group said that the three women--all of them widows of murdered human rights defenders--were the "highest embodiment" of the struggle for defence of human rights in Asia.
"All three... symbolise the struggle against intolerable cruelty and deep repression in Asia that embodies the spirit of the May 18 Uprising," Jack Clancey, the AHRC chairman, and Basil Fernando, its executive director and an earlier recipient of the prestigious award, said in the nomination.
The prize is given annually by the Gwangju-based May 18 Memorial Foundation, which keeps alive the spirit of the May 1980 uprising against military dictatorship in the southern Korean city.
The AHRC said that in awarding the prize jointly to Angkhana, Suciwati and Padma, the selection committee would "recognise not only their determination to protect human rights, but also our obligation to do the same".
"When voices of protest come from the wives or husbands of the dead, lost voices attain an even more vibrant expression," the AHRC said.
"Society is obliged to respond and protect these persons and their voices. This obligation is owed both to the families of the victims and to the society itself," it said.
"The only way that society can regain its dignity is through this response and support," the AHRC stressed.
"It was this obligation that was felt by the people of Gwangju in 1980 and far beyond, and it is that which gives significance to the work of the May 18 Memorial Foundation in awarding this prize annually," it added.
By demanding that the government of Thailand account for the abduction of her husband Somchai by police in March 2004, Angkhana has become "an inspiration for uncountable numbers of people in Thailand, as well as internationally", it said.
"[Angkhana] is now a leading human rights defender in her society, not afraid to ask uncomfortable questions directly of people in power; questions that break open the heavy silences hanging over the submerged but ever-present killings, disappearances and torture that go on there," the AHRC explained.
It described Suciwati, wife of Indonesian human rights lawyer Munir Said Thalib, who was poisoned on a Garuda Indonesia flight in September 2004, as a "leading light" in her country's human rights movement.
"By advocating tirelessly on her husband's case she has created a sense of obligation and accountability that had not earlier existed among the authorities there," the AHRC said.
Padma has become a "symbol of resistance to police violence and oppression in Sri Lanka" since the murder of her husband Gerald Perera in November 2004, just days before he was due to testify against police on trial for torture in a high court.
"Like Angkhana and Suciwati, Padma has expressed determination to continue the struggle for human rights in her country throughout her life," the AHRC said.
"Each of the three nominees is a small flame of hope amid the darkness and fear in each of their countries. By jointly awarding them the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights this year, you will brighten both the flame of the May 18 Uprising in Asia as well as their own flames, and bring more light to each of their countries and so too, Asia as a whole," the AHRC concluded.
The Gwangju Prize for Human Rights is given annually on May 18.
The 2006 recipient will be announced in Gwangju on April 28.
# # #
About AHRC The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.
Posted on 2006-03-30