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Cambodia, Japanese among Magsaysay winners

Jim Gomez
Associated Press

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A psychiatrist who helped fellow Cambodians recover from the trauma of the Khmer Rouge genocide and a Japanese ophthalmologist who led the treatment of thousands of Vietnamese villagers have been selected as this year’s Ramon The Magsaysay Prize, considered the Asian version of the Nobel Prize.

Other winners are a Filipino pediatrician who has provided medical, legal and social help to thousands of abused children and their families, and a Frenchman who has battled plastic pollution in Indonesian rivers.

Announced on Aug. 31, the annual award is named after a Philippine president who was killed in a 1957 plane crash and honors “the great spirit of selfless service to the people of Asia.” They will be on display in Manila on November 30.

Aurelio Montinola III, president of the prize’s foundation, said the winners “all challenge the invisible social boundaries that lead to separation and draw the boundaries of innovative and inspiring connections.”

The foundation says Sotheara Chhim, a 54-year-old Cambodian, has led the treatment of thousands of survivors of trauma under the brutal Khmer Rouge rule and the country’s psychiatrists since she became executive director of its intercultural psychosocial organization in 2002. other patients.

As a child, he was forced to work in the Khmer Rouge concentration camps for more than three years until their rule ended in 1979. After years of war, he became one of Cambodia’s first psychiatrists, and he devoted his life to treating people, especially in rural communities, where he said “a mental health worker should be.”

Tadashi Hattori, a 58-year-old Japanese ophthalmologist, won the award for training local doctors who have treated thousands of Vietnamese. The award foundation said he decided to become a doctor at 15 when he witnessed his cancer-stricken father being treated rudely in hospital.

When he visited Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, in 2002, he was deeply moved by seeing villagers blinded by a severe shortage of ophthalmologists and treatment facilities, and began to raise funds, train specialists and donate equipment for local hospitals. .

“Even just healing one eye could put someone in school or return to work,” Hattori said. “I can’t say no to people who are on the verge of going blind because they don’t have the money to pay for their treatment.”

Child abuse has been a persistent problem in the Philippines due to poverty, child labor and child trafficking, and pediatrician Bernadette Madrid, 64, has raised eyebrows by providing treatment, raising awareness and engaging policymakers and civil society to address the problem. Attention, awards officials said.

Since 1997, she has led the country’s first child protection center at the Philippine General Hospital in Manila. As of last year, it had served more than 27,000 children.

Madrid was awarded for “her leadership in developing multisectoral, multidisciplinary child protection work, highly regarded in Asia, and her competence and compassionate commitment to enabling every abused child to live in a healing, safe and and nurturing society”. Prize Foundation said.

It said Gary Bencheghib, from France, became a plastic pollution “warrior” in the Indonesian resort of Bali, where his parents moved a few years ago when he discovered the extent to which plastic was clogging waterways. At 14, he started weekly beach cleanups with his sister, brother and friends, a project that led him to become an environmental advocate.

Bencheghib, 27, went on to work in filmmaking in New York and produced more than a hundred videos about plastic pollution and environmental protection, which are watched by millions on YouTube, Facebook and other social media platforms. A 2017 documentary about West Java’s polluted Citarum River helped prompt President Joko Widodo’s government to begin a seven-year restoration program, rewards officials said.

He and his siblings have led the deployment of some 170 garbage barriers in polluted rivers, with plans to install hundreds more in Bali and Java.

He was awarded for his “inspirational fight against ocean plastic pollution”. His youthful dynamism in combining nature, adventure, video and technology as weapons of social advocacy, as well as his passion for creativity and adventure, is truly a shining example for youth and the world,” said the award foundation.

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