Posts Tagged ‘Mary Aileen Diez Bacalso’

Where is Somchai? A brave wife’s 17-year quest for the truth

March 17, 2021

Where is Somchai? A brave wife's 17-year quest for the truth

Posters of missing Thai activists are pasted on a wall in Bangkok in June 2020. (Photo: Mladen Antonov/AFP)

Mary Aileen D. Bacalso, from Manila wrote on 12 March, 2021:

I was taking a train in Manila in March 2004 when I received a call from Munir Said Thalib, then chairperson of my former organization, the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances. Munir requested me to issue a statement on the enforced disappearance of Thai lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit on March 12, 2004. It has been exactly 17 years since Somchai involuntarily disappeared.  Somchai, a prominent Muslim lawyer who was seen being dragged into a car in Bangkok, had filed a case of torture against the police in southern Thailand on behalf of five men who were in its custody.

Five policemen who were charged with pulling Somchai away from his car were released. Police major Ngern Thongsuk was convicted by the Court of First Instance in 2006. Five years later, the Supreme Court overturned the decision. All the accused were acquitted. 

I witnessed one of the first hearings of the Somchai case in 2004. It was then that I met his wife Angkhana, a nurse, who vowed never to leave any stone unturned to uncover the hidden truth about her husband’s disappearance….

Angkhana is as determined and as indefatigable as Argentina’s members of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo-Linea Fundadora. She has learned to wholeheartedly embrace the issue of enforced disappearance as her own. She became one of Thailand’s commissioners on the National Commission on Human Rights but had to resign over issues of independence. Angkhana is one of the family members of the disappeared who transcended their state of victimization and chose to become human rights defenders. [

With them and with the innumerable victims of enforced disappearances, she finds the real meaning of solidarity. She forges lasting friendships with people who, like her, envision a world without desaparecidos. By virtue of her crusade to search for truth and justice for her husband and for the countless other victims in her country and in the rest of the world, she has garnered prestigious human rights awards, which include, among many, the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights and the Ramon Magsaysay Award. See:]

Unknown to many, Thailand is smeared with many other cases of enforced disappearance and human rights violations, including the unresolved case of the 1992 Black May massacre. The Democracy Monument immortalizes the 1992 victims of enforced disappearance and other rights violations and is a manifestation of the Thai people’s continuing struggle for democracy. 

Anathema to democracy, enforced disappearance is one of the cruelest forms of human rights violations. The 17-year old unresolved case of Somchai Neelaphaijit is in stark contrast to Thailand’s beautiful image as the “Land of the Free.”

Where is Somchai? For 17 years, Angkhana, in solidarity with the human rights community in her country and the rest of the world, has been asking this nagging question. See also

Mary Aileen D. Bacalso is the president of the International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances (ICAED).

2019 Franco-German Human Rights Prize to 14 human rights defenders

December 13, 2019

The Franco-German Human Rights and the Rule of Law Prize [for more indo see:] is awarded to human rights defenders around the world, but also to lawyers who represent the human rights defenders and journalists who work to make the truth known. Through this prize, France and Germany wish to show their support for the work of these individuals. [ for info on the previous round, see:

The winners of the 2019 Franco-German Human Rights and the Rule of Law Prize are fighting battles in key fields such as the fight against torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, against forced disappearances, against violence on women, against discrimination of LGBT people and the promotion of gender equality.

The prize winners include:

  • Ales BIALIATSKI (Belarus)
  • Li WENZU (China)
  • El Nadim Center (Egypt)
  • Mr Ameha Mekonnen Asfaw (Ethiopia)
  • Ms Robin Chaurasiya (India)
  • Nasrin SOTOUDEH (Iran)
  • Amina HANGA (Nigeria)
  • Ms Miluska Del Carmen Luzquinos Tafur (Peru)
  • Ms Mary Aileen Bacalso (Philippines)
  • Ms Irina Biryukova (Russia)
  • Ms Delphine Kemneloum Djiraibe (Chad)
  • Ms Asena Gunal (Turkey)
  • Luz Mely REYES (Venezuela)
  • Mr Vu Quoc Ngu (Vietnam)

Li Wenzu (center) receives the 2019 Franco-German Human Rights and Rule of Law Award, presented by the French and German ambassadors to China at the French embassy in Beijing, December 11, 2019.

Li Wenzu (center) receives the 2019 Franco-German Human Rights and Rule of Law Award, presented by the French and German ambassadors to China at the French embassy in Beijing, December 11, 2019.

In her acceptance speech, Li said the award was a boost not just to her personally, but to all the hundreds of lawyers, rights activists and their families caught up in a nationwide crackdown that began in July 2015.


(From left) Robin Chaurasia receiving the award from Sonia Barney and Juergen Morhard on Thursday.

(From left) Robin Chaurasia receiving the award from Sonia Barney and Juergen Morhard

Mumbai-based women’s rights activist Robin Chaurasiya has won the Franco-German Award for Human Rights. Ms. Chaurasiya, who co-founded the non-profit Kranti in 2010, has worked for the betterment of girls born in the red-light areas of the city. Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Dr. Juergen Morhard, and the Consul General of France in Mumbai, Sonia Barbry, presented the award to Ms. Chaurasiya. “When I came to India from the U.S. to work with another NGO, I saw that many children were left on their own once they entered their teenage years. They would be locked in rooms for the slightest mischief,” she said. She believed these children had many talents but did not have the environment to flourish. “I recall they were only being taught how to make pickles and do basic work. I feel we need to get rid of these notions and let them pursue their passion, which could be the ambition to become a doctor or an engineer,” she said. Ms. Das said she met Ms. Chaurasiya at the NGO. “It motivated us to start this initiative. We nurture and help these women fulfil what they want for themselves, not the other way round. If someone wants to study something like music, we look for the best places where they can be enrolled. One of our members is now a music therapist.”


Günal received the prize at a ceremony held at the Embassy of Germany in Ankara on 16 December. Receiving the prize, Asena Günal made a speech in brief:

As someone working in the field of culture, it would not have occurred to me that I would receive a prize in the field of human rights. As the honorable Ambassador has said ‘cultural rights are more than just an ingredient to the international human rights framework. Participation in cultural life of the society on the one hand, freedom of expression on the other are indispensable rights of every human being’. However, for many years in Turkey, participation in cultural life and freedom of artistic expression remained as a side issue, because there were more pressing concerns such as torture, enforced disappearance and imprisonment. The struggle for human rights was the one carried out by those keeping watch day and night at the Human Rights Association in case someone appealed for help, lawyers who ran to police stations when people were detained, Saturday Mothers who gathered every week despite all obstacles.

Today, the field of human rights in Turkey has expanded to include culture. There are two reasons for this: One of them is that people have become aware of the importance of considering access to artistic expression and culture and arts in the framework of human rights. The other reason is that state oppression on culture, arts and civil society has increased. Here, I would like to particularly underline the ongoing unjust detention of Osman Kavala that began two years ago and the following oppression and unfounded allegations that made him a target. In trying times like these, such awards give the motivation to persevere, and make you feel that your efforts are worthwhile. I have never been alone in this process:

Philippines activist deported from India for working on disappearances

August 20, 2014
The Kashmir Reader on 20 August 2014 reported that Mary Aileen Diez Bacalso, the Secretary General of Manila-based Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), was deported after her arrival at the Mumbai International Airport, India. “I’m sure that I was prevented from entering the country because of my work for the AFAD,  and for the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) on the issue of enforced disappearances, on the mass graves, and  on the persecution of human rights defenders in Kashmir,” Bacalso told over phone from Manila.Bacalso said it was not the first time that India denied a visa to an AFAD official from visiting the country. She said that the matter was reported to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced Disappearances and to the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances.
“And India ironically signed the International Convention for the Protection of all the persons from enforced disappearance. And in that convention it states that the families of the disappeared have the right to organize themselves and also to work for truth and justice…” she added.

The AFAD Secretary General explained that she was not on an official but a personal visit to Mumbai on her friend’s invitation.  “I was going to stay in Mumbai as a tourist for only four days. …I was not planning to go to Kashmir.”
Upon her arrival at the Mumbai airport on August 17 the officials told her that she had done something ‘bad’ during her five-day visit to India in November 2009. [Prior to her visit, the Indian embassy in Philippines told her travel agent that Philippine nationals can obtain a 20-day visa upon arrival

via HR activist says barred from India for working on Kashmir disappearances | Kashmir Reader.