MANILA – Two journalists, a human rights defender, a philanthropist and a musician received on Monday the 2019 Magsaysay Awards, widely known as the “Asian Nobel Peace Prize,” in a ceremony held in Manila.
The ceremony took place at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and was attended by foreign diplomats, senators and politicians.
The vice-president of the Philippines, Leni Robredo, gave the closing speech, in which she praised the winners as “modern-day heroes” and “prime-movers and change-makers” who “dare to defy the expectations and conventions of their time.”
Robredo, who has often criticized a brutal “war on drugs” waged by President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte, also said that the five winners represented “those who refuse to accept that violence and aggression are the Asian way.”
The Magsaysay Awards were created in 1957 as a tribute to Ramon Magsaysay, former president of the Philippines, who died that year in a plane crash.
This year’s winners hail from Myanmar, India, Thailand, South Korea and the Philippines.
Indian journalist Ravish Kumar, one of the most influential TV journalists in his country, was recognized for “his unfaltering commitment to a professional, ethical journalism of the highest standards,” as well as “his moral courage in standing up for truth, integrity, and independence,” according to the board from the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF), which is bestowed with giving the awards.
Ko Swe Win, a 41-year-old journalist from Myanmar, is the editor in chief of Myanmar Now, an independent website specializing in investigative reporting.
The RMAF recognized him for “his undaunted commitment to practice independent, ethical, and socially engaged journalism” and “unflinching pursuit of the truth in crucial but under-reported issues.”
Angkhana Neelapaijit, from Thailand, received the award for her work at the Justice for Peace Foundation, focusing on southern Thai provinces where a conflict between the Muslim-majority and Thai security forces has raged on since 2004.
Angkhana began her activism after the disappearance of her husband in 2004, and the board recognized “her unwavering courage in seeking justice for her husband and many other victims of violence and conflict in southern Thailand.”
South Korea’s Kim Jong-ki was a successful businessman when his 16-year-old son committed suicide in 1995, as a consequence of the bullying he suffered at school.
That year, Jong-ki established the Foundation for Preventing Youth Violence.
The board recognized “his quiet courage in transforming private grief into a mission to protect Korea’s youth from the scourge of bullying and violence.”
The fifth winner was Filipino musician Raymundo Pujante Cayabyab, a celebrity in his country.
He got the award for “his compositions and performances that have defined and inspired Filipino popular music across generations; his indomitable, undeterred confidence to selflessly seek, mentor and promote young Filipino musical genius for the global stage.”