Despite growing intimidation from authorities, Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, Director of the Cross Cultural Foundation, continues to assist marginalised communities, especially torture victims and their families in Southern Thailand, to access justice. She also supports the communities’ efforts to address the widespread culture of impunity.
"Community activism is important. There are people in the community that the military will listen to - the Imams, lawyers and teachers. The community is actually powerful in curbing torture."
Pornpen, or Noinoi as she is affectionately known, has also been at the frontline for a national campaign to criminalise torture in Thailand. This process is still pending, but the campaign work has increased her commitment to prevent torture and to the cooperation forged between the Cross Cultural Foundation and the APT. In 2013 Noinoi spent six months in Geneva as APT’s inaugural Asia Pacific fellow. Her experience with APT has been a remarkable learning journey, which she is looking forward to sharing with her local partners in Thailand. Among other things, she is writing a handbook on detention monitoring for civil society in Southern Thailand.
"Local groups – understandably – tend to take actions in an ad hoc way. But this can be harmful and reduce their credibility. They need more knowledge on how to sustain their work, especially facing emergencies, and on the legitimate actions that they can take."
The OPCAT remains an important tool to address human rights issues in places of detention and Noinoi is confident that her country will ratify the treaty soon. Only then, she says, can the authorities and civil society in Thailand be fully empowered to prevent torture from happening.
"I now want to help to build capacity among lawyers, NGOs and families. With better knowledge and skills we can have a better dialogue with the authorities, which in the end can lead to structural reforms that ensure better treatment of all persons deprived of liberty in the future."