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    International women's day

    Amazing grace

    A female monk is seen with novices and nuns who made the United Nations’ list of Outstanding Women in Buddhism this year. Every year, the UN honours women who have contributed to Buddhism on UN International Women’s Day, which is today.

    The Nation

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    Outstanding women honoured for activities in wide range of fields

    Outstanding women honoured for activities in wide range of fields


    Twenty-one outstanding women received awards yesterday from the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security and the National Human Rights Commission to mark International Women's Day this year.




    Chantalak Raksayoo, the 35-year-old editor of I-nam magazine was among three women honoured as "Women's Human Rights Defenders" by the National Human Rights Commission for her role in promoting better understanding of homosexuality and the right to sexual preference.

    The two other winners were Roi Seehapong, for working with slum communities, and Yaena Salamae, for seeking justice for 58 Muslims arrested in connection with an incident in Narathiwat's Tak Bai district on October 25, 2004.

    The other 18 women plus six government and private institutions will receive awards today from the Office of Women's Affairs and Family Development under the Social Development and Human Security Ministry.

    One of the recipients was a senior policewoman in Pattaya and the others included a local politician, a businesswoman, women who have promoted peace in the deep South, an environmental activist, a journalist, and youths and workers. All were classed as outstanding.

    Magazine editor Chantalak volunteered in 1995 with a lesbian group called "Anjaree" and helped produce its newsletter. In 2000 she became the group's coordinator and in 2003 she helped found the "Sapaan Group", which worked on issues relating to sexual preference through media channels such as pocketbooks, TV and its website www.sapaan.org

    Though the World Health Organisation states that homosexuality is not abnormal behaviour, members of the homosexual community in Thailand still face discrimination and violence against their choice of sexual preference, she said.

    There were many cases of violence against lesbians that people never see in news reports, she said.

    Yaena Salamae, a 49-year-old woman from a Muslim community in Tak Bai, began her role fighting for rights and justice when 17 men from her community, including her son and relatives, were among 58 men arrested and charged.

    Yaena helped coordinate with a legal team from the Lawyers Council of Thailand and the families of the defendants. She accompanied the legal team to visit families and helped interpret, as the villagers mostly speak Malay. Yanae also helped coordinate with government officials on the case.

    And Roi Seehapong, 73, was honoured for two decades of working for housing rights in slum communities in Bangkok.

    Learning from the experiences of an Indian women's group she met at a seminar, Roi helped housewives in her community to establish a "Housewives' savings fund" group, which has become a model for other slum communities all over the country.

    Roi is now president of the Housing Cooperative of the United Slum Development Association, which runs projects for permanent housing for its members.

    Siraprapa Suparattanachoti was another to be honoured. She is the only female police investigator in Chon Buri province. The 43-year-old lieutenant colonel, attached to Pattaya police station, has had a 20-year career with the force, during which she has dealt with 217 cases, mainly involving women and children.

    "Femininity never obstructs my work as an investigator," said Siraprapa. "Instead, it has advantages. As a woman, it's easy to understand the feelings of female suspects or victims. Sometimes I listen to them and cry with them."

    In Pattaya, she routinely comes across child victims of sexual abuse and trafficked women and children. Many of them have been lured into the sex trade.

    "But such problems are never really solved. I can say the number of new cases increases three times more each day," she said.

    Siraprapa also works for Chon Buri police's Women and Children's Protection Centre, where she educates fellow police and students about human trafficking. She believes it's better to prevent students from being lured into the sex trade in the first place, as this solves the problem at the outset.

    Asked about the award, she said: "I'm very proud, but I'll be happier if more people come to help me on this."

    Thanyathorn Chaisoda, 27, was honoured for standing up for her personal rights. In January, Thanyathorn was on public bus number 29 heading to her office when she was molested by a man on the back seat. Thanyathorn stood up and punched him three times in the face.

    "Other women might be ashamed, but not me. I scolded him and told the bus driver to stop at a police box at the next junction," she recalled. But instead of helping her take the man to the police, the driver immediately stopped the bus, opened the door and told her and the man to get out.

    The man ran off but Thanyathorn gave chase and finally caught him. Without any help from a crowd of onlookers, she single-handedly forced him to the police box about 200 metres away.
    "I want to tell women in the same situation as me: Shout out loud! You've got nothing to be ashamed of. It is lustful men who have to be ashamed," she said.


    Subhatra Bhumiprabhas,

    Chatrarat Kaewmorakot
    The Nation

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    Women’s rights activists rally in front of Government House Thursday on the occasion of the Women’s Day to demand better protection for women workers.

    The Nation

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    Female activists release birds to mark International Women's Day at Government House yesterday.

    PATTARACHAI PREECHAPANICH
    Bangkok Post

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