Thai Lawyers for Human Rights honoured at Clooney’s Justice for Democracy Defenders gala

Sirikan Charoensiri giving an acceptance speech at New York Public Library, Image courtesy of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, Facebook

The Clooney Foundation for Justice recognised the efforts of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) at The Albies, a gala held in New York City.

The TLHR was among six honorees from around the globe, celebrated for their work towards defending democracy activists and others who have been the target of legal harassment and persecution. The award ceremony was named after Justice Albie Sachs for his monumentally vital role in abolishing apartheid in South Africa.

The award, Justice for Democracy Defenders, was bestowed upon TLHR for defending “thousands of students, activists and journalists who have been arrested under Thailand‘s laws criminalising peaceful protest and speech — including insulting the monarchy.”

The co-founder of the organisation, Sirikan “June” Charoensiri, faced a multitude of prosecutions herself due to her work defending 14 pro-democracy student protesters who were arrested in June 2015. These students were charged with sedition by the military regime, leading to Charoensiri being charged with the same offence.

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During her acceptance speech, Sirikan posed a rhetorical question to the audience, asking if they knew that discussing the royal family or advocating for democratic reform could result in imprisonment.

“These implausible scenarios are all too real for us.”

As per TLHR data as of August 31, 1,925 individuals have been prosecuted for political participation and expression since the Free Youth protests took off in July 2020. Of these, 257 are facing lese-majeste charges under Section 112, and 130 have been charged with sedition under Section 116.

The gala, organised by human rights lawyer Amal Clooney and her actor husband George Clooney, drew a crowd of high-profile personalities from various fields including human rights, business, entertainment, fashion, and technology.

In a joint statement, the Clooneys emphasised the risks faced by justice defenders worldwide.

“Courageous justice defenders around the world face grave dangers that cannot be eliminated overnight. But what we can do, in addition to our foundation’s daily work, is shine a spotlight on the danger that these individuals are facing, raising the stakes for their persecutors.”

Notably, actress Meryl Streep was seen at The Albies alongside TLHR co-founder Sirikan Charoensiri and Ann-Pawinee Chumsri, TLHR litigation manager, reports Bangkok Post.

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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