Friday, October 13, 2006

Death Penalty Thailand - The Final Say

In a response to statement issued on World Abolition Day by the Thai Coalition Against the Death Penalty (TCADP) a government spokesman said that the government must retain the death penalty as such was the wish of the majority of the population. The following letter is a reply from the Union for Civil Liberties:

POSTBAG Bangkok Post, 12th October 2006

Death penalty is an affront to humanity

The response of Thongthong Chandarangsu, justice deputy permanent secretary, to the submission of human rights activists that the death penalty be abolished raises a fundamental issue of ethics (Bangkok Post, Oct 11, "Rights advocates seek end to death penalty").

The momentous issue of judicial execution cannot be decided by majority vote, especially by a population which remains uninformed and where the issue has not been debated.

Arguments against the death penalty are based on the perception that the right to life is the most basic right of a human being and that no individual or government has the right to take it away. As the world came to understand that slavery and judicial torture are unacceptable infringements of human dignity, so, today, almost two-thirds of the world's nations have come to realise that the death penalty also is an affront to humanity.

The motive of moral conviction is supported by practical experience that the death penalty is no more effective a solution to crime than the punishment of life imprisonment. The abolition of the death penalty recognises the inalienable right to human life and founds a culture where lethal violence becomes abhorrent. The rights of victims are thereby more enhanced than by a vengeful satisfaction of an illusory blood debt.

Twenty-five years ago the death penalty was abolished in France. As in several other countries which have taken the same decision, it is admitted that a majority of the population would still favour execution. Abolition requires moral and political leadership rather than an appeasement of popular opinion.

The practice of waiting for majority approval in ethical issues would be a perverted notion of democracy and a failure of leadership.

It is timely that the worldwide trend to abolition is being broadcast in Thailand. In time, the abolition of the death penalty will be seen as a profound consequence of Thai Buddhist and other religious beliefs.


Chairman, Union for Civil Liberties

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