Human rights activist narrowly clinches Senate election

Angkhana Neelapaijit, Image courtesy of the UN

Renowned human rights activist and widow of kidnapped lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit, Angkhana Neelapaijit secured a seat in the Senate as a representative of the civil sector and NGOs. However, she has raised serious concerns about the integrity of the election process, alleging widespread fraud and vote manipulation in favour of certain candidates.

In an impassioned statement, Angkhana claimed that the senatorial poll was marred by irregularities that enabled influential lobbying efforts to secure votes for preferred candidates. She pointed to the outcome of the election, where only three candidates from her group emerged victorious amid an election littered with alleged manipulations.

The Election Commission (EC) announced the unofficial results following the final round of voting on Wednesday. However, the official endorsement of the 200 newly elected senators is still pending.

Angkhana was one of the 2,168 candidates from Group 17, which represents the civil sector, NGOs, and similar occupations. She lamented that only she and two other candidates from her group managed to win seats, while several others were relegated to a waiting list.

Expressing her disappointment, Angkhana noted that the civil sector candidates faced significant challenges due to a lack of connections and influence. She alleged that certain powerful individuals orchestrated bloc votes for specific candidates, resulting in an unusually high number of votes for them.

“We, civil sector candidates, talked among ourselves. We want to come in and work for the people but we were disappointed to see that seats had been reserved for certain candidates, and those from the civil sector won at a very low ratio.”

She further highlighted that the margins by which the civil sector candidates won were exceedingly narrow, suggesting that without substantial connections or power, securing a Senate seat was an uphill battle.

Angkhana’s journey into human rights activism began after her husband, Somchai Neelapaijit, disappeared under mysterious circumstances on March 12, 2004. At the time, Somchai was representing five Muslim suspects allegedly involved in a raid on an Army camp in Narathiwat. His disappearance remains unresolved.

In addition to her advocacy work, Angkhana served as a commissioner for the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand from November 2015 to 2019. Her election to the Senate marks a significant milestone in her continued efforts to champion human rights and civil liberties in Thailand, reported The Nation.

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Ryan Turner

Ryan is a journalism student from Mahidol University with a passion for history, writing and delivering news content with a rich storytelling narrative.

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