BANGKOK — The number of crimes punishable by execution in Thai laws should be reduced in an attempt to decrease death row inmates, an attorney who campaigns for the end of capital punishment said Thursday.
Namtae Meeboonsalang, a Juvenile and Family Cases attorney in Kanchanaburi, made the call alongside other activists at a panel discussion that seeks to strike down execution from Thai justice system. The latest execution in Thailand took place in June 2018 by lethal injection after a nine-year lull.
“There are 55 crimes punishable by death, including drug trafficking and arson,” Namtae said.
The lawyer said keeping death penalty in the laws risks sentencing innocent people to their death, because some police officers could remove or distort evidence resulting in trumped-up charges.
“They could delete CCTV footage or erase the crime scene whichever way they like,” Namtae said.
He spoke days after a judge in Yala province shot himself in an apparent suicide attempt to protest alleged interference from his supervisor. In a statement prepared before the shooting, judge Khanakorn Pianchana said he was pressured to find five men guilty of murder, which would possibly send them to the execution chamber.
Human rights lawyer Somchai Homlaor conceded that much of the public might not be in favor of abolishing the death penalty. He cited a 2017 survey in which 87 percent of respondents say execution should be kept in the laws.
Thailand is among 56 countries still maintaining the death penalty, while 106 countries have abolished capital punishment and another 28 have agreed to suspend it.
Campaigner Kessarin Tiawsakul said even when the death penalty is not actively enforced, it still imposes trauma on death row inmates. Kessarin said she conducted interviews with some of those prisoners in 2017, and found them to be suffering from emotional torture from not knowing when they would be executed.
“They live without knowing which day they would be taken to be executed. This is torture,” she said.
Unlike regular inmates, death row prisoners have no access to education, the campaigner said.
Several foreigners present at the seminar also urged Thailand to drop capital punishment, including French ambassador Jacques Lapouge who said ending death penalty in 1981 was a “obligation” for France.
French jurist Guillaume Simon also noted that a number of Asian countries and territories have already abolished the death penalty. Among them were Cambodia in 1989, Hong Kong in 1994 and Macau in 1979.
No representative from the Thai government attended today’s event. – Khaosood English, 10/10/2019
Network urges end of death penalty
41% of Thais back capital punishment
Activists rally in Bangkok in 2014 to urge for death penalty on rapists. (File photo by Apichit Jinakul)
The Network for the Abolition of the Death Penalty on Thursday urged Thailand to make progress towards abolishing the death penalty by acceding to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which aims to end capital punishment.
Gothom Arya, a representative of the network, said at the panel held at Chulalongkorn University to mark World Day Against the Death Penalty — which fell on Thursday — that a push for an outright end to the death penalty in Thailand would be a difficult task because of the prevalent belief in society that a guilty person needs to go through his (or her) karma: if one commits a violent act, he deserves a violent consequence.
“There is a belief that if there’s no death penalty, convicts will return to society and harm again. I think the process towards abolishing the death penalty in Thailand is likely to be a time-consuming one,” he said.
According to a survey conducted by Mahidol University, 41% of Thais want to keep the death penalty, while 51% were undecided.
Only 8% of the population supported abolishing it.
Mr Gothom said although Thailand may not be able to push for an outright end to the death penalty, the country can make progress by acceding to the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR which allows member countries to gradually reduce the number of crimes liable to capital punishment instead of pushing for an outright end.
“If the death penalty is maintained, Thailand should take all measures necessary to ensure that it is limited to the most serious crimes, such as acts carried out with the intention of killing,” he said.
Mr Gothom said Thailand is now among a number of countries in the world where the death penalty is known to have been imposed or implemented for drug-related, corruption and bribery offences, which do not meet the threshold of the most serious crimes.
Atcharapan Jaraswathana, a professor of Criminology at Mahidol University, said there is no evidence the death penalty has any unique deterrent effect, so the hope of Thai authorities’ that the death penalty will reduce crime is misguided.
“The death penalty is ultimately a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment which provides no quick-fixes to problems the authorities want to confront,” she said.
Jacques Lapouge, the Ambassador of France to Thailand, said France and the European Union firmly opposes the death penalty at all times and in all circumstances. – Bangkok Post, 11/10/2019