Asean Moves Boldly To End Death Penalty (Bangkok Post, 10/10/2016)

# This was an opinion of Seree Nonthasoot, Thailand’s representative to the AICHR, that was published by the Bangkok Post.

To mark World Day Against the Death Penalty today, Thailand and other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) have reason to revisit and recommit efforts to abolishing capital punishment.

Much work remains to be done. Thailand, which has not executed anyone for seven years, and a few other Asean countries with capital punishment continue to hand down the death penalty on drug-related offences, which is unlikely to deter crime. It is the ultimate denial of the right to life and a violation of fundamental human rights.

Of the world’s 198 countries, 102 have legally abolished the death penalty for all crimes. An additional 32 countries are abolitionist in practice since they have not executed anyone in the last 10 years and they have a policy or commitment not to carry out executions. Six countries reserve the death sentence only for the most serious crimes of culpable homicide and murders. Of the 58 countries that have not abolished the death penalty, just 25 carried out executions in 2015. However, of those 25 exceptions, four are member states of Asean. Thailand is not among them.

Though the death penalty is still on our statutes, no one has been executed since 2009. However, we still have prisoners sitting on death row and, following a ruling by the Supreme Administrative Court in July, those on death row may be held in shackles permanently.

Thailand is among the first group of countries that voted in 1948 to adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 3 of the UDHR states that “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”, while Article 5 confirms that “no one shall be subject to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.

About half of those on death row in Thailand and a few other Asean countries are convicted of drug-related crimes. In accordance with Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Thailand is a party, the death penalty should only be applicable in the case of the most serious crimes. Drug offences hardly fall under that category. I therefore support the initiative by the Thai Ministry of Justice to embark on the reform of drug offences such as those related to methamphetamine.

Crime determent has always been the rationale for handing down the death penalty. Empirical data proves this wrong. For example, drug use has been steadily on the rise in the region despite the death penalty. This clearly indicates that capital punishment does not work as a deterrent and it is time to reconsider it.

Studies carried out in different countries paint a consistent picture. The overwhelming majority of people who end up on death row are poor and not well-educated. They cannot afford proper legal counsel. Many, such as migrant workers, do not even understand the charges of which they are accused.

Further, many drug offenders are duped in the first place. They are executed for crimes they were not even aware of committing, often without even knowing the kingpins who planned their downfall. Once they are prosecuted, drug barons can easily recruit other vulnerable groups who are not aware of the grim fates they will be facing.

To tackle crime, we need to find ways to reduce it. Thailand’s National Human Rights Plan of Action (2014-2018) which outlines a plan to abolish the death penalty is a promising step. It suggests an opportunity and an obligation for civil society to work harder to influence this movement and to do more to develop a regional aversion to the taking of life by the state. But much needs to be done.

At the regional level, Asean governments have formally set the community on a bold and clear 10-year direction of being “people-centred, people-oriented” as well as rule-based. What is happening now seems to be the opposite. We are seeing thousands of people in the region being summarily and extra-judicially executed for allegedly being involved in drug crimes.

A lesson from this alarming phenomenon is the dynamics of politics that can equally lead to progress or regress. We cannot afford to be complacent; even countries that have ratified the Optional Protocol to the ICCPR and have thus committed themselves to abolishing the death penalty can create fanciful ways to bypass that obligation and institute state-instructed and inspired programmes to kill their own people.

I welcome the recent formation of the Coalition on the Abolition of the Death Penalty in Asean (CADPA) among like-minded persons and groups to campaign for the end of the death penalty. CADPA has launched a campaign called “End Crime, Not Life”, aiming to raise public awareness of the difficulties with the application of the death penalty and to focus on improving criminal justice systems. It is time for all of us to stand up for a justice system that punishes offenders in a fair and appropriate manner. The region’s people-centred and people-oriented vision must be underpinned by its drive towards abolishing the penalty.

# Seree Nonthasoot is Thailand’s representative to the AICHR. This article expresses his personal views.

Source: Bangkok Post, 10/10/2016





Related post

Malay Mail – Hoping that there will be no more death penalty in Malaysia by the next World Day Against the Death Penalty — MADPET

Malaysiakini – Madpet hopes death penalty abolished by this time next year

Hoping for an end to the death penalty in M’sia

October 10, 2016

Despite the country being on the verge of abolishing the death penalty, it is most disturbing that in 2016 alone Malaysia executed four.

gantung1By Charles Hector

On October 10, 2016, the 14th World Day Against the Death Penalty, Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) calls on Malaysia to expedite the abolition of the Death Penalty, and to impose a moratorium on all executions against the Death Penalty.

Malaysia on track towards abolition

In a news report, Nancy Shukri, the then minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, did say she hoped to take her proposal to amend the Penal Code and abolish the mandatory death sentence to the Dewan Rakyat as early as March 2016.

A few days before that, in another news report, Attorney-General Apandi Ali said he would propose to the Cabinet that the mandatory death penalty be scrapped, so that judges are given the option to choose between sentencing a person to jail or the gallows.

Malaysia was accorded a space of importance at the recent 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty, organised in Oslo (Norway) from June 21-23, 2016, where the de facto Minister of Law, Nancy Shukri, was expected make a positive announcement about Malaysia’s intention to abolish the death Penalty. Sadly, the Minister could only confirm that Malaysia was still moving in that direction, but she could not be more specific about exactly when these proposed amendments would be tabled in Parliament.

Nancy told the World Congress that a government-backed study on the death penalty had been completed and a paper was being readied by the Attorney-General’s Chambers. The study was conducted by the International Centre For Law and Legal Studies (I-CeLLS). The consultant was then Professor Dr Roger Hood, Professor of Criminology and Emeritus Fellow of All Souls College Oxford.

The Minister also told news portal Malaysiakini at the sidelines of the Sixth World Congress that the study had been completed about two months ago.

Death penalty is no deterrent

Nancy Shukri previously also said that empirical studies showed that the death penalty had not led to “the deterring effect that such a penalty was created for.”

This was consistent with the facts the then Home Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein revealed to the Malaysian Parliament in March 2012, which showed that police statistics for the arrests of drug dealers under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, which carries the mandatory death penalty, for the past three years (2009 to 2011) have shown an increase. In 2009, there were 2,955 arrested under this section. In 2010, 3,700 people were arrested, whilst in 2011, there were 3,845 arrested.

Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation vice-chairperson Lee Lam Thye also did note in July 2013 that the death sentence had not deterred the drug trade.

Cases like that of Malaysian Umi Azlim Mohamad Lazim, 24, a graduate from a poor Malay family of rice farmers, and young Malaysian Yong Vui Kong who were once facing death for drug trafficking overseas, who since then had their sentences commuted, have opened the eyes of most Malaysians of the fact that many of the persons facing the death penalty for drug trafficking are really ‘mules’, many of whom are young people who have been tricked, or those who are financially disadvantaged. They are certainly not the kingpins of drug trafficking, and certainly do not deserve to be hanged.

Mandatory death penalty

Currently in Malaysia, the death penalty is mandatory for about 12 offences, while about 20 other offences are punishable by a discretionary death penalty. Murder and Drug Trafficking carry the mandatory death penalty.

Likewise, the Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act 1971 provides for the mandatory death penalty if firearms are discharged with intent to cause death or hurt to any person, shall, notwithstanding that no hurt is caused for offences like extortion, robbery, kidnaping, house breaking or house trespass, and such mandatory death penalty would also increase the risk the death of victims and/or potential witnesses. It is all the more important for the mandatory death penalty to be abolished where no hurt/death results.

The mandatory death penalty must be totally abolished, and considering Malaysia is on the verge of abolishing the death penalty, especially the mandatory death penalty, it was most disturbing that Malaysia in 2016 executed four persons, who were convicted for murder which carried the mandatory death penalty. Gunasegar Pitchaymuthu, Ramesh Jayakumar and Sasivarnam Jayakumar were executed on March 25, whilst Ahmad Najib Aris was executed less than three weeks ago on Sept 23.

Immediate moratorium on all executions needed now

We recall that Edmund Bon Tai Soon, Malaysia’s current AICHR (Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights) representative, was reported saying: “…Malaysia’s moratorium, I understand, is only for drug trafficking cases…” It must be noted that Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), also did reiterate on March 29 their recommendation that a moratorium on the use of the death penalty be put in place in Malaysia.

Madpet believes that there must be a moratorium on executions of everyone, not just those convicted for drug trafficking.

Why the delay in the tabling of these amendments?

Madpet notes that Malaysia informed us that the study was completed in early April or May this year, and all that was needed was for the Attorney-General’s Chambers to draft and thereafter submit the proposed amendments to be tabled by the Government in Parliament, which we hope will happen soon in the upcoming Parliamentary session this October.


Madpet urges Azalina Othman, who replaced Nancy Shukri in mid-July as the new de facto Minister of Law, to expedite the tabling of the much needed amendments that will abolish the death penalty.


Madpet also urges that Malaysia announce a moratorium on ALL executions, not just for drug trafficking, pending the tabling of amendments, that would see the abolition of the mandatory death penalty, and hopefully also the abolition of the death penalty. As of May 16, there are 1,041 persons on death row.

Madpet also urges Malaysia to vote in favour of the upcoming United Nations General Assembly Resolution calling for a moratorium on executions pending abolition of the death penalty, or at the very least record a vote of abstention.

Madpet reiterates its call for Malaysia to abolish the death penalty, and hopes that by the next World Day Against the Death Penalty, Malaysia will proudly stand amongst countries that have abolished the death penalty.

Charles Hector is spokesman for Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet).

With a firm belief in freedom of expression and without prejudice, FMT tries its best to share reliable content from third parties. Such articles are strictly the writer’s personal opinion. FMT does not necessarily endorse the views or opinions given by any third party content provider.

FMT News, 10/10/2016

* See full statement, with reference to news reports, being the basis for some of the assertions contained in the statement.


ASEAN & the Death Penalty: Behind the Shutter – 11/10/2016, Bangkok

ASEAN & the Death Penalty: Behind the Shutter

Asia Centre is hosting an informal discussion and networking session with New York-based Japanese photographer and anti-death penalty activist Toshi Kazama.

The discussion will look at the death penalty from a journalistic perspective. It will consider the role of the media in structuring the narrative of the death penalty and providing context for its use.
Some of the questions that will be considered are
‣ How is the death penalty framed and reported about in the region?
‣ What impact does the media have on people support for the death penalty?
‣ What challenges do journalists face in reporting on capital punishment?
‣ Can and should the media play a role in charting course towards abolition of the
death penalty?
The discussion will be followed by a networking session. Light refreshments will be
This event is free.
When 11 October 2016 (Tuesday)

Where Asia Centre (Beside Phaya Thai BTS)

Time 6pm – 9pm
For inquiries please write to us at
This event is part of the #EndCrimeNotLife regional campaign against the death penalty.
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