Mrs Kamnoeng Chamnankit: From a victim to a healer
One of the recipients of this year’s (2014) Outstanding Women In the Promotion of Peace, Mrs Kamnoeng Chamnankit, was herself a victim of alleged abuses by the authorities in the Deep South which was the main reason that has completely changed her life.
The incident which changed the life of Mrs Kamnoeng took place in June 2007. A native of Nakhon Si Thammarat, she has moved to Pattani and has been living there for about 30 years with her husband. They made a living by selling food on Rong Ang Road in Muang district.
She recalled the incident on June 19, 2007, security forces conducted a search of several houses in her neighbourhood during which they found a plastic baglea containing bomb-making materials stuffed in a paint bucket behind their house.
"It was about 9.30 pm and everyone of us were at home. Then about 30 policemen and army troops conducted a raid in search of illegal weapons and other materials. Then they came to us and said they found materials to assemble bomgs at the backyard of our house. The security forces took my husband and son away and they were presented before the media as suspects," said Mrs Kamnoeng.
The two men were detained and Mrs Kamnoeng had to get a loan from relatives and another loan from a loan shark to get them bailed out. Police set the bail for the two men at 500,000 baht each.
After about two months in custody, her husband was released on bail and the charges against him were later dropped by the prosecutor. Her son was released a month afterward but he had to go through a court trial which eventually found him not guilty as charged.
Mrs Kamnoeng disclosed that the detention of her two loved ones and the trial of her son had badly affected her little business and livelihood.
"Customers who used to buy food from us gradually disappeared one by one because they were afraid to come to us. In the end, there were no customers and I had to close down the food selling business."
She said that she took out a 400,000 baht loan from a bank by using a land title deed of their house as a surety. Finally, she was forced to sell the house to settle the bank’s loan and still left with some money to buy a cheap house at Ban Pakaharang, Muang district.
The house was cheap because the area was flooded every time there was a heavy rain but she had no choice, said Mrs Kamnoeng.
From a food vendor, she has turned to practice sustainable agriculture by growing banana and maize and raising fish and poultry to make a living. But more importantly, she has devoted herself as a volunteer of a network of women to help out victims of violence perpetrated by state officials.
As for her family’s plight and hardship from alleged abuses, Mrs Kamnoeng said that compensation provided by the government could not address their loss of human dignity from being wrongly charged and tried.
Peace, she said, cannot be restored by one person no matter how good he or she is. It needs joint efforts of all stakeholders in the society. "If there is a conflict, parties in the conflict should take a step back and start talking and if they cannot talk with each other then a third party should be brought in to mediate," she added.