Sompop Jantraka receives Wallenberg Medal
DEPDC’s Founder and Director Honoured as Humanitarian in Michigan, U.S.A.
Each year, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor awards the “Wallenberg Medal” to a woman or man of extraordinary courage, with a vision for justice and human rights that inspires others. On March 13, 2008, at a ceremony on the university campus, the Wallenberg Executive Committee recognised Sompop Jantraka, DEPDC’s founder and first director, as the seventeenth Wallenberg medalist. Dr. John Godfrey, Chair of the Committee, wrote of Khun Sompop in the letter of invitation, “With few resources and many enemies, [Sompop] is a strong force in the fight against human trafficking”. As recipient of the Wallenberg Medal, Khun Sompop was invited to deliver this year’s Wallenberg Lecture.
Among the Wallenberg Medalists are Nobel Peace Prize laureates His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the Dalai Lama of Tibet, and and Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu, Paul Rusesabagina from Rwanda, as well as Kailash Satyarthi from India. All of the “outstanding humanitarians” were, like Khun Sompop, selected “because their contributions [to] honor and perpetuate [Raoul] Wallenberg’s own extraordinary accomplishments and human values … on behalf of Jews in Nazioccupied Europe.”
Those who know of the founding of DEPDC in 1989 and its subsequent impact in the Greater Mekong Sub-region have long seen the qualities in Khun Sompop that equal the Committee’s criteria for selecting medal recipients.
- unmatched heroism, courage, and self-sacrifice in the protection and rescue of the persecuted
- the ability to reach out to the hungry, the helpless, the powerless, and the persecuted by providing sanctuary
- embodiments of the idea that “one person can make a difference” in the struggle for a better world
- symbols of stamina, hope and faith in the goodness of one’s fellow human beings
In his Lecture, Khun Sompop defined human trafficking and its international reaches to an audience of university students, faculty and staff, local representatives of the U.S. Peace Corps, and to community members and friends. He was honoured by the presence of His Excellency Ambassador Krit Garnjana-Goonchorn and Mrs. Ravewan Garnjana- Goonchorn who travelled from the Royal Thai Embassy in Washington, D.C. to Ann Arbor, and of Mr. Narong Sasitorn, the Thai Consul-General in Chicago. Khun Sompop’s Lecture about the story and vision of DEPDC also reflected the Committee’s observation about all of the medal recipients to have in common “their ability to inspire all with their vision, and the reality of their strength to act upon that vision”.
To read more about the ceremony please refer to the DEPDC/GMS Newsletter from June 2008 in our Newsletter Archive. Please also visit the profile of Sompop Jantraka at the website of the Wallenberg Endowment and learn more about Raoul Wallenberg.
Photo Credit: The above photo of Sompop Jantraka was used with kind permission of the University of Michigan.