Friday, July 18, 2014

Rape Murders and Death Penalty in Thailand

"When sorrows come, they come not single spies but in battalions" Shakespeare
The worst nightmare of those calling for an end to the death penalty is the occurrence of horrendous crimes incurring the death penalty. Such is the fate of Thailand. First there was the rape murder of a 13 year old girl in the sleeping car of a train as reported in an earlier post. Now there is news of the rape murder of a hill tribe mother and her daughter. But this news is reported in the Bangkok Post in smaller type face and at the bottom of a page. Dominating the news at the top of the same page and in larger type face is the killing of an elephant! Apart from the downplay of the awful killing of mother and child, one may reflect that the clamour to execute the first murderer did not deter the second!
Thailand, where are we going?
                                     Top of page news
Bottom of page news      

Monday, July 14, 2014

Death Penalty Will Solve All Problems

Draco,  the Greek tyrant, who imposed the death penalty for all crimes, returns
In the hysteria of reform sweeping Thailand, the death penalty is seen as the solution to all problems
 Draconian laws refer to a traditional Athenian law code allegedly introduced by Draco in 621 BC. The Draconian Laws were most noteworthy for their harshness; they were said to be written in blood, rather than in ink. Death was the prescribed punishment for almost all criminal offenses. Whether historical fact, or a myth, the tradition lives on in the dream that crime can be solved by a sufficiently severe punishment. Who would steal a purse if they know that the punishment is death? But the question today should be, “Who would execute a citizen for stealing a purse?”
Little is known of the effect of Draco’s laws, other than that they were later regarded as intolerably harsh. In 594 BC, 27 years later, Solon, a moderate magistrate, repealed Draco’s code except for the laws on homicide. Thailand has not quite progressed to the law reform of Solon, and notably retains the death penalty for drug offences. But many Thais would return to the day of Draco and execute for all crimes which they consider abominable or harmful to society. A comment to a recent article pleading for restraint reads, “If we kill off this scum, would society be: a) the same, b) worse off, c) better off. If the answer is c) then kill him. And if we have to kill off 10,000 more such scums, might as well. Our society will be better off”! ( We are witnessing the collection of signatures to execute rapists, and most recently a senior politician believes that Thailand can be saved only if those buying or selling votes are put to death. See the following:
A core member of the Bhumjaithai party has proposed that buying and selling votes should get death sentence. 
In voicing his opinion to the problems of vote buying and selling that has undermined the Thai democracy for several decades, the former Nakhon Ratchasimna MP said the existing laws must be amended to increase maximum penalties on vote buying and selling.
Boonchong Wongtrasirat, also a former deputy interior minister in the Samak Sundravej government, said politician who is ruled guilty of buying votes not only must be banned for life in politics, but also must get the maximum penalty for the crime, while the party involved be dissolved and also banned forever in politics.
Convicted politician must either get life imprisonment sentence or death penalty for the crime, he said.
For people who sell their votes to crooked politicians, they also should get either life imprisonment or death sentence, he said.
Such maximum penalty will effectively stamp out vote buying and selling from this country once and for all, he said.
Bhumjaithai or Thai Pride Party, was founded on November 5, 2008.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Murder of a child on night train in Thailand

"Dozens of Thai celebrities on Tuesday shared messages urging the Thai junta to amend the punishment for rapists to capital punishment after Wanchai Sangkhao, 22, confessed that he raped and killed a 13-year-old girl and threw her body out of the window of a train.
The girl took a night train from southern Surat Thani to Bangkok on Saturday 5 July 2014, with her older sister and the sister’s boyfriend. Her sister reported the girl’s disappearance to the authorities on Sunday morning. The bedding and belongings of the girl also disappeared.
The authorities found the body of the girl on Tuesday morning near the railway line in Pranburi District, Prachuap Khiri Khan Province. Wanchai, who was subcontracted by the State Railway of Thailand, confessed that he raped the girl after he got high on amphetamines and beer." Prachathai

Murder of a child, mandatory death sentence and the death penalty itself
The rape and murder of a child on a night train is an abominable crime and the most severe punishment available must be passed on the perpetrator. However, the angry demands for the death penalty must give pause.  There are calls for mandatory sentencing. But mandatory sentencing is not an available punishment. “Mandatory” death penalty is a denial of humanity. It is a denial first of our humanity, the citizens of a democratic country; it denies the right of human choice and decision in our affairs even in the punishment of a horrendous crime, establishing an animal like automatic retaliation. Thankfully, despite the many flaws of Thai justice, it does not give place to the injustice of mandatory sentencing.
 The voices for execution of the rapist are becoming frenzied and unthinking. Where do the voices derive the “right” to kill a fellow citizen?  If the rapist is condemned to death it will be for killing another human being.  What good can come of killing this human being? No, it will not deter further crimes by intoxicated and drugged aggressors, rather it will make the lives of all of us cheaper. Setting the rape and murder of a child at the highest level of wickedness, does not imply justifying taking the life of another, thereby weakening the value of life itself.
Is capital punishment an available punishment in Thailand? Indeed yes, on average there is at least one death sentence a week handed down in our courts. However, in the last five years no one has been executed. Abolition of the death penalty has been included for the second time in Government five year human rights programmes. Meetings have been organized by the Ministry of Justice in five regions to explain to the public why abolition is a worldwide choice responding to three UN General Assembly votes for a universal moratorium on executions. Spokespersons of that Ministry have declared in private and in at least one public meeting that there will be no more executions in Thailand.
Thai justice bases itself on the rehabilitation of prisoners. Prisoners retain their humanity and they are still citizens. We may not understand the mentality of the criminal, but we can still respect the humanity which we share. Beginning from a realization that revenge is meaningless, we have learned that just as it does not undo the wrong, neither does it deter future crime. Our cries of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” would return us to a world of vendettas and violence from which it has taken thousands of years for us to progress. Yes, imprison the perpetrator for as long as it takes to ensure that he can no longer be a threat to a child. But let him come to terms with his humanity. It can happen, and it must happen if there is a future to the humanity of us all. Meanwhile we must turn our anger to sympathy for the family of the child who died such an awful death, to watchfulness for the protection of all our children, and for the elimination of the drunkenness and drug taking that took advantage of evil opportunity on a public service.
Danthong Breen
Union for Civil Liberty

Monday, June 09, 2014

Gay Pride: June 28 2014


Eleven countries continue to condemn to death LGBTI persons on account of their sexuality and sexual identity:
Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Brunei, Arab Emirates, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen
Hundreds of thousands across the world are protesting on this day.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Maldives Returns to Death Penalty

The President of Maldives, Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, has decided to restore the death penalty in the Maldives, even for minors who, according to International Law are exempt from execution. In Maldives the age of criminal responsibility is 10 years of age in general, but for crimes such as robbery, fornication, consumption of alcohol, and apostasy the age of responsibility is 7 years of age.
The decision was announced by the Government on 27th April

The UN office of Human Rights has strongly condemned the decision and called for abolition of the death penalty. However, the President declares that "Killing must be countered by killing". The Republic of Maldives is an Islamic State and the law of charia, set aside for 60 years, is renewed.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Abolish the Death Penalty in Myanmar (Burma)

Myanmar is a de facto abolitionist country; there has not been an execution since 1988. It is a small step to legitimise this status by removing the death penalty from the legal code, thus greatly promoting the observance of human rights in this onetime pariah state.

Burma: Open Letter to President Thein Sein on the abolition of the death penalty

Paris, Bangkok, 9 May 2014

Mr. President,

FIDH and its member organization, the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (ALTSEAN-Burma), urge you to take bold steps to abolish the death penalty in Burma.

Burma has not carried out an execution since 1988. As a result, it is among the world’s de facto abolitionist countries. However, during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on 27 January 2011, the predecessor military government rejected recommendations made by numerous States to abolish capital punishment.

Despite the fact that courts continued to impose death sentences during your term in office, you took several important and welcome steps towards ensuring that executions would not resume. In May 2011, January 2012, and January 2014, you issued three presidential amnesties that commuted death sentences to life imprisonment. Now you can promote additional measures aimed at making Burma the third country in ASEAN to abolish the death penalty. As the Chair of ASEAN for 2014, your country has an unprecedented opportunity to lead the bloc by example and make progress towards transforming ASEAN into a death penalty-free region.

FIDH and ALTSEAN-Burma respectfully urge you to use your executive powers to instruct your administration to:

· Introduce legislation that amends Article 53 of the Criminal Code, removing the clause that prescribes the death penalty for various criminal offenses.
· Introduce legislation that ratifies the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and its second Optional Protocol, which aims at abolishing the death penalty.
· Vote in favor of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution that calls for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. The resolution will be introduced at the UNGA’s 69th regular session, which will convene in September 2014.

These historic measures would remain a key legacy of your presidency and mark a clear break from the country’s past. We express our sincere hopes that you will act on these recommendations, leading to the abolition of the death penalty before Burma hands over the ASEAN Chair to Malaysia in 2015.

We thank you for your attention to this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Karim Lahidji
FIDH President

Debbie Stothard
ALTSEAN-Burma Coordinator
FIDH Secretary-General

Thursday, May 08, 2014

When Executions Go Wrong

                      What is the problem? I have done the job
Lethal injection has become the preferred form of execution in states having some form of human sensibility to pain and torture. The pretence is that lethal injection is little different from anesthesia as a prelude to surgery. The simple act of initiating the flow of three chemicals into the veins of the convicted criminal can be entrusted to three persons who draw lots on who delivers each fluid. The intention of the procedure is that neither the person being executed, nor the executioner is subject to pain or stress. It is thought appropriate to invite the families of the person being executed and of his victims to witness the spectacle.
At 18h23 on 29th April last, the execution of Clayton D. Lockett at McAlester, Oklahoma, USA was initiated. After the flow of a powerful sedative the condemned man was declared unconscious by a prison doctor. The problem was that the two subsequent chemicals, an anesthetic and a lethal poison had never been tested before. Countries which manufacture these chemicals are refusing to export them to countries using them to carry out executions. Such is the horror of judicial killing in countries that have abolished the death penalty themselves that they refuse to provide the means or instruments of killing to countries persisting in use of the death penalty.
When the chemicals flowed into the body of Clayton Locket, his limbs began to tremble and his body was seized in convulsions. He began to murmur to himself, “Oh man”, clearly in severe pain, to the distress of observers. A curtain was drawn and an attempt made to halt the execution. At 19h06 Clayton suffered a massive heart attack and died. It had taken almost three quarters of an hour for death to come in consequence to a death penalty passed in the year 2000. A second execution scheduled to follow on the same evening has been postponed for two weeks.

The request of both men that they be executed by electrocution had earlier been refused. 
Last January a condemned person in Ohio had suffered visibly before horrified witnesses for ten minutes before death came.  Another was heard say that his heart felt that it was on fire. 

A commentator has declared that Clayton Lockett has not been executed, but tortured to death

Friday, April 18, 2014

Tribute to Karpal Singh

On 17th March Karpal Singh died in a tragic car accident. His father died in a car accident. Five years ago he was paralysed in a car accident. This champion of those sentenced to death on drug and other charges appears to have been killed by a driver in possession of drugs:

"We are but playthings of the gods, they kill us for their pleasure"

Only a month ago I met this legal champion as he defended Anwar Ibrahim, leader of the Malaysian opposition in parliament. He himself fought alongside Anwar in opposing an autocratic political hegemony.

This website salutes this giant gladiator for justice with the fitting tribute of Zunar.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Karpal Singh, Tiger of Jelutong

Malaysia is one of the world’s most intransigent executioners in the world. Adherence to the age old brutality of hanging until death has produced one of the world’s greatest gladiator lawyers who has rescued hundreds from the noose, often at the last moment against all odds. Karpal Singh, known as the Tiger of Jelutong, after the constituency where he served as member of parliament for 21 years.
Child of a poor Sikh family he saw the death penalty in the naked brutality of public executions by the Japanese in occupied Penang, and learned to bow deeply to Japanese soldiers who held power of life and death. Throughout his life he has retained a horror of the death penalty and a rejection of unprincipled power.
Nothing in Karpal’s life has passed smoothly, neither his graduation from the University of Singapore, his first employment in a law office, his legal practice which included his own imprisonment for 15 months, or his political career.
His recent biography, “Karpal Singh, Tiger of Jelutong”[1] is a fascinating tale of heroism and daring. In the context of this website we concentrate on his contribution to countering Malaysia’s draconian capital punishment regime.
There is almost an end to the death penalty in Malaysia. In the heyday of executions Malaysia preferred to hang people in pairs, so that they could be a comfort to each other in their last moments. The death penalty was mandatory for possession of 15 grams of heroin, for possession of a gun or ammunition.  Of the 441 people hanged in Malaysia from 1960 to early 2011, 228 of them were convicted of drug trafficking, 130 were convicted of illegal possessions of arms, four were convicted of waging war against the king, and one individual was hanged for kidnapping. Amnesty International claims that two persons were executed in 2013 but this figure is not confirmed elsewhere. In recent years the numbers executed have been one or none. But it is not over yet; there are at least 902 persons condemned to death in Malaysia’s prisons.
A final end to the death penalty in Malaysia will undoubtedly be largely the achievement of Karpal Singh. In the words of his biographer, “While he sees his contribution to Malaysian society as more legal than political, nevertheless his dual-pronged achievements in both fields have been significant and very much entwined. Undoubtedly his biggest contribution to Malaysian society has been in steering hundreds of clients away from the gallows via numerous legal challenges to capital punishment legislation… he has spent a lifetime working to modify the laws of a legal system which evolved from Muslim rulers and British colonialists.”
The biography by Tim Donoghue is an inspiration of leonine defense of the unfortunate, but also a model of imaginative and exhaustive querying of a justice system which appears rigid and unyielding. Karpal fights in the courts, but also in the prison cells where he becomes friend and champion of his clients. When he loses a case, he is there to strengthen and console the families on their last meeting with their relative. When he wins he shares a victory drink with his client, and sees them to the airport if they are foreigners.
He is now 74 years old, crippled and confined to a wheelchair due to a car accident, but he is still alert and daring in his defense strategy, speaking in an eloquent growl that inevitably recalls the metaphor of his nickname, the Tiger of Jelutong.

[1] Karpal Singh, Tiger of Jelutong, Tim Donoghue, Marshall Cavendish Editions, Singapore, 2013