Death penalty 'here to stay'

Death penalty 'here to stay'

Prayut brushes aside Amnesty rally, debate

Members of Amnesty International converge outside Bang Khwang Central Prison, hold up placards to denounce the execution of a convict on Monday, the first in almost nine years. Wichan Charoenkiatpakul
Members of Amnesty International converge outside Bang Khwang Central Prison, hold up placards to denounce the execution of a convict on Monday, the first in almost nine years. Wichan Charoenkiatpakul

Amnesty International organised a protest outside Bang Khwang Central Prison in Bangkok yesterday as debate continues to rage over the legitimacy of the death penalty after the nation saw its first state-sanctioned execution in almost nine years on Monday.

Arguments raged on social media about whether capital punishment still has a place in a country aspiring to be a modern democracy after a convicted rapist was put to death.

Amnesty, in a Facebook post, called to abolish the death penalty. The post drew over 2,600 comments, with many arguing that the right group was neglecting to consider the feelings of the families of those who had been murdered in brutal ways.

The hashtag #capitalpunishment was trending on Twitter with over 234,000 tweets as of press time last night.

One leading comment by @vanwadee888 that was retweeted 9,300 times suggested the man put to death on Monday met a better fate than his victim.

His Tweet read: "Bad guy had 'the last meal' before dying, had a chance to say goodbye to his family, was injected with a sleeping drug and muscle relaxer before the injection that stopped his heartbeat. The victim had no last meal, no farewell, ran for his life, was stabbed 24 times."

On Monday, the Department of Corrections announced that Theerasak Longji, 26, had been executed by lethal injection. He was convicted for the brutal murder of a 17-year-old boy in the southern province of Trang on July 17, 2012.

Theerasak stabbed his victim 24 times before making off with his mobile phone and a reportedly small amount of cash.

He was the seventh convict to be executed by lethal injection since the system was introduced in Thailand in 2003, replacing execution by firing squad.

Yukol Sukmak, 47, the mother of the teenage victim, said yesterday she was grateful that justice had been served. She also said she had forgiven the convict. The execution was his karma, she added.

She described her son's death as a great loss and recounted the years of grief it had caused her. She urged the police to hunt other suspects involved in the killing so they also could be brought to justice.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has brushed aside calls by human rights bodies to end the death penalty, saying it is necessary to maintain peace and order and deter severe crimes.

He was responding to opposition from Amnesty and the UN Human Rights Office for Southeast Asia (OHCHR).

"Currently, there are many cases involving severe crimes. The death penalty is meant to keep the peace and teach others a lesson. It is necessary," the prime minister said.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said Thailand's decision to retain this form of punishment does not contradict its constitution.

Monday's execution was carried out after several failed appeals by the perpetrator, Mr Wissanu said.

The OHCHR issued a statement yesterday expressing its deep regret at the execution of Theerasak and its dismay at the use the death penalty in Thailand after so many years.

"The resumption of the death penalty runs contrary to Thailand's human rights commitments at national and international levels. During the Universal Periodic Review in 2016, Thailand expressed its commitment to take measures to abolish the death penalty," said Cynthia Veliko, representative of the OHCHR's Southeast Asia office.

"We urge the Thai government to take steps to immediately instate a moratorium on the use of the death penalty as part of a process toward the full abolition of capital punishment," Ms Veliko said.

The European Union issued a statement yesterday calling on the Thai government to refrain from any future executions, and work towards a moratorium and the eventual abolition of the death penalty.

Thanee Woraphan, a law lecturer at Dhurakij Pundit University, told the Bangkok Post that if the death penalty is abolished, it would be necessary to ensure convicts serve full life terms rather than allow them to have their sentences commuted.

Chartchai Suthiklom, acting chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, disagreed with the use of the death penalty.

Kanit NaNakorn, former chairman of the now-defunct Truth for Reconciliation Committee, set up by the Abhisit Vejjajiva government, told the Bangkok Post that he proposed the death penalty be abolished when he sat on a committee drafting the 1997 constitution.

Mr Kanit said life imprisonment should replace the death sentence in the interests of respecting human dignity.

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