In the Era where Human Rights are Obscure,

Women are the Driving Force for ASEAN


3 March 2017

In order to celebrate “International Women’s Day”, Amnesty International would like to give six examples of activists and human rights defenders who have been faced with threats, intimidation, capture and violence only because they stood up to protect human rights in their region. 

Champa Patel, Acting Regional Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, Amnesty International, revealed, “in the ASEAN region, there are few governments that can be proud of their human rights situation, while in many countries, many women are standing up to show their bravery and face various forms of danger in order to fight against the injustice”. 

Champa Patel concluded, “On this International Women’s Day, we would like to admire those six women from six countries who have shown their bravery and inspired people around Asia. Their deeds for their society should be praised, not condemned”. 

Those six female activists and human rights defenders are as follows. 


1) Thailand: Sirikan Charoensiri (Lawyer June)


She always helps her clients who were investigated and prosecuted for claiming for human rights according to the standards of the international laws. She is also an important member of the Thai civil society. Lawyer June can be imprisoned up to 15 years for the charges of violation of the injunction prohibiting “political rallies” with more than 5 people issued by the NCPO. It is apparent that such charges are related to her honest duties as a lawyer. It is not only Lawyer June, but many female human rights defenders in Thailand, like Pornpen Kongkajornkiet, have also faced with criminal charges and certain forms of threat. 


2) Malaysia: Maria Shin Abdulla

A 60-year-old mother of three children, had been in solitary confinement without the trial for 11 days in November 2016 after leading the Birsih protest claiming for the reformation of election and governance participated by hundred thousands of people. Maria was arrested under the stability law with the charge of undermining the parliamentary democracy and the Security Offences (Special Measures) (SOSMA). These laws are barbaric laws which allow secret confinement for a long period of time without inspection from the justice system. Maria, along with other 14 activists who were involved in the Birsih protest, was arrested, and she had previously been investigated for participating in previous peaceful assembly in Malaysia. 


3) Cambodia: Thep Wannee (Thep)

She is a rights activist in her locality. She has been held in a prison in Phnom Phen from August 2016. What has happened is not only that the government is attempting to silence her, but it is also an intimidating warning sign to other activists in Cambodia. Thep and the members in her community had been protesting against the eviction at the Boeung Kak Lake over the past 10 years. She and other women who participated in a peaceful assembly were targeted for prosecution and unfair imprisonment from the authority. However, up until the present, she has been standing up for rights and justice. 


4) The Philippines: Sen. Leila De Lima


A senator and former Minister of Justice and former president of the Philippines Human Rights Commission, has become well-known after objecting the “Drug War” policy of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and being arrested for drug in February 2017. Leila has been captured in a prison in Manila and might be liable to 12-year imprisonment. She has always insisted on her innocence and believed that her arrest is political bullying. She stated that what has happened is a horrifying example of the government that has attained power and failed morally. President Duterte has previously slandered Leila several times, as she has criticized the human rights violation policy publicly. He has recently discussed with the supporting group stating that if he were Leila, he would have “hanged himself to death”. 


5) Vietnam: Jen Ti Nga 

A land rights and democracy activist. She was assaulted by both police officers in the uniform and plain-clothes police officers in front of her four children. Last January, she was arrested for publicizing the anti-government advertisement, which is a charge used to detain those who have different opinions for a long period of time. She is one of the 93 prisoners of conscience captured in Vietnam. She started studying about human rights by herself while she was treating herself after the accident which she had when she was a labor worker in Taiwan and suspected that her labor rights were violated. After she came back to her country, she joined the women network campaigning about human rights.


6) Myanmar: Wai Wai Nu

She became a prisoner of conscience after being detained by the Myanmar government in 2548. She was not permitted to access lawyer or to speak during the trial. Wai Wai Nu is only a 18-year-old law student. She was told that she would be imprisoned in a high-security jail for 17 years. Later in 2012, she was granted her freedom after the Myanmar revolution. She intends to fight against the injustice, which is what she had faced when she was in prison. She has recently graduated law and established two human rights organizations: Women Peace Network Arakan Organization and Justice for Women Organization. Wai Wai Nu and her family are Rohingya, the ethnic group which has seriously been oppressed by the Myanmar authority for several years. She has currently been praised as a bold activist for equality and for having good oration.