Matthew Smith is a founder and executive director of Fortify Rights and a 2014 Echoing Green Global Fellow. He previously worked with Human Rights Watch (2011-2013), where he authored several reports on critical rights issues in Myanmar and China. Matthew also served as a project coordinator and senior consultant at EarthRights International (2005-2011). His work has exposed wartime abuses and forced displacement, crimes against humanity, “ethnic cleansing,” multi-billion dollar corruption, "development"-induced abuses, and other human rights violations. He has written for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, and other outlets. Before moving to Southeast Asia in 2005, Matthew worked with Kerry Kennedy of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights on Speak Truth to Power. He also worked as a community organizer in New York City and as an emergency-services caseworker in Mobile, Alabama. He has an M.A. from Columbia University and a B.A. from Le Moyne College.
Amy A. Smith
Amy A. Smith is a founder and executive director of Fortify Rights. Previously, Amy worked as a consultant focusing on regional migration and refugee protection issues with the Labor Migration and Trafficking Unit of the International Organization of Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Regional Office for Southeast Asia. Amy served as the Myanmar and Thailand researcher for the International Secretariat of Amnesty International and worked with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Malaysia and Thailand, facilitating research and programming with urban and camp-based refugees from Myanmar. For several years, she worked with the Chin Human Rights Organization and remains on its board of directors. Amy authored numerous reports and publications on human rights and humanitarian issues, including for Human Rights Watch, and has experience providing legal representation and expert testimony for asylum seekers in the U.S. Amy is a licensed U.S. attorney with a J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law and a B.S. from Northeastern University.
Cathy Ayer is the Development Specialist for Fortify Rights. Cathy has spent over ten years working in international aid in Thailand, Iraq, Sierra Leone, Haiti, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Uganda and Malaysia. For the past three and a half years, she served as the Program Coordinator for the International Rescue Committee's (IRC) office in Bangkok, Thailand, overseeing the development of their multi-million dollar regional portfolio for refugee programs in Thailand and Myanmar. Prior to the IRC, Cathy worked with the British Red Cross, Cafod and Trocaire supporting and coordinating emergency response and working with partners to develop programs to aid crisis affected people. She has worked with Women’s Human Rights organizations in the Asia-Pacific region and holds a Master's degree in Human Rights and International Law from the University of London.
Puttanee Kangkun is a Thailand Human Rights Specialist with Fortify Rights. She has more than 10-years of experience engaging on human rights issues in Thailand. She served as a member of the Asian NGOs Network on National Human Rights Institutions and has worked with a subcommittee of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand. Most recently, Puttanee's work has focused on supporting USAID-funded projects throughout Thailand. Her earlier experience included supporting human rights defenders through the Asian Human Rights Commission and the Justice and Peace Foundation and assisting displaced communities through her work with the Thai Action Committee for Democracy in Burma. Puttanee holds a MA in Human Rights from Mahidol University, Thailand.
Sutharee Wannasiri is a Thailand Human Rights Specialist with Fortify Rights. She has been working since 2009 to address key human rights concerns in Thailand with national, international, and UN agencies. For four years, Sutharee served as the Policy and Advocacy Coordinator for Amnesty International Thailand (AI Thailand). Prior to AI Thailand, she worked on promoting human rights awareness through a project with the Asia Foundation. Most recently, Sutharee monitored the conflict in southern Thailand and focused on the prevention of torture through her work with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Sutharee received an MA in Human Rights Practice from an Erasmus Mundus joint program with Goteborg University, Sweden; Roehampton University, UK; and University of Tromso, Norway and a BA in Political Science from Chulalongkorn University.
One of two Myanmar Human Rights Specialists with Fortify Rights, he has been working on the social, political, and economic rights of marginalized communities in South and Southeast Asia since 2012. Most recently, he worked with a women's organization in Myanmar to develop research and advocacy materials and support the design and implementation of campaigns relating to the human rights of women. He also has experience working with another community-based organization in Myanmar, an international organization focusing on Myanmar, and a communications agency. He holds an MSc in Globalization and Development from a prominent UK university.
John Quinley III
John Quinley III is an Associate Human Rights Specialist with Fortify Rights. He was born and raised in rural and urban Thailand and has worked with refugees, displaced people and marginalized communities throughout Southeast Asia. Most recently, he worked as a freelance journalist and researcher covering political and economic issues in the region. John has experience conducting research on transgender rights with Love146 in Bangkok, Thailand. He has worked as a Refugee Specialist with Women’s Opportunities Resource Center in Philadelphia providing post-resettlement services to refugees from Myanmar, Syria and Bhutan. John lived and worked for a year in an internally displaced persons camp in Shan State Myanmar with Partners Relief and Development. John holds a BA in Economic Development with a specialization in Southeast Asia from Eastern University, US.
Nickey Diamond, aka Ye Myint Win, is a Human Rights Consultant with Fortify Rights in Myanmar and a civil-society leader focusing on youth education. Nickey founded Youth for Social Change Myanmar (YSCM) in 2007 and served as the organization’s Executive Director until October 2013. Under his leadership, YSCM became a professional service provider for youth in need of assistance and support. In 2013, he received a scholarship from the Government of Norway to help build the capacity of institutions in Myanmar, and in 2014, he received a President George W. Bush Fellowship and completed the Liberty and Leadership Forum (2014-2015), where he studied leadership, democratization, and political philosophy. Nickey has attended dozens of international conferences, workshops, and seminars in Asia, Europe, Africa, and the U.S. He holds a B.A. in Economics and is working towards a M.A. in human rights at the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies at Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand. Nickey speaks Burmese and English.
Guillermo Jose Farías Velasco
Guillermo Jose Farías Velasco is a Legal Fellow with Fortify Rights. He received his Juris Doctor (J.D.) from Fordham University School of Law in 2015, where he has a Crowley Scholar in International Human Rights and a Stein Scholar in public interest law. During law school, Guillermo interned at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in its United States Protection Unit, The Legal Aid Society's Immigration Law Unit, and the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the United Nations. Before law school he worked at the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch (2010-2012), where he coordinated research, logistics, and production of reports, press releases, and other features about Latin America. Guillermo received his B.A. in History and Political Science from Vassar College in 2010.
OUR International Advisory Board
- Kerry Kennedy, President of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights
- Tomas Ojea Quintana, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar
- Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director at Human Rights Watch
- Victor Biak Lian, human rights and democracy activist, 2010 recipient of St. Stephen’s Prize from Norway’s Stefanus Alliance International
- Tyler Giannini, Clinical Professor and Director of the International Human Rights Clinic, Harvard Law School
- Pillkyu Hwang, human rights lawyer with Gonggam Human Rights Law Foundation and Human Rights Committee Coordinator of the Korean Bar Association.
Our Board of Directors
- Rob Kilpatrick, Chairman
- Gerald Bourgeois
- Oddny Gumaer
- Brad Hazlett
- Matthew Smith
- Isabelle Bourgeois
- Sidney J. Jansma III
- Amy A. Smith
- Joe Cashion
Work With Us
Interested in joining the Fortify Rights team? We have the following positions available (click for more information).