Live and let live
Efforts to lift capital punishment in all countries by non-governmental organisations have been going on for decades and substantial progress has been made over the years. In the latest move, a motion has been submitted to the UN General Assembly for a vote on the issue.
Actually, the UN has made its stand clear that it disagrees with the death penalty. It runs against Item 3 of the Universal Declarations of Human Rights which provides: "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person." Likewise, the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which
It also provides: "In countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime. Anyone sentenced to death shall have the right to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence, and sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below 18 years of age and shall not be carried out on pregnant women".
So far, Thai constitutions and the Penal Code have been in compliance by these commitments. We don't execute a person under 18 or a pregnant woman. Our law also grants inmates on death row the right to seek a royal pardon within 60 days from the date the Supreme Court hands down its judgement and execution may take place only after royal discretion. In most cases, the royal pardon is granted, and it is only once in a blue moon that the appeal is turned down.
Last month, I met Prof Speedy Rice, the representative of World Coalition Against The Death Penalty, who is here on a worldwide campaign to lobby for the lift of the death penalty, and Danthong Breen from the
Prof Rice also met with Thirapat Serirangsan, a minister to the Prime Minister's Office, and Charan Phakdithanakul, permanent secretary for Justice, who both agree with the principle and pledged to push the issue.
Under the Thai law, capital crimes include offences against life or national security, drug trafficking, and rapes which result in deaths.
In my view, despite the letter of the law,
As this year is an auspicious one in which Thais celebrate His Majesty the King's 80th birthday, the government should therefore rethink the issue and consider lifting the penalty as a gift to His Majesty. But since the UN General Assembly is nearing, we might not be able to abolish it in time. At the least, if a vote on the issue is to be cast at the meeting, I hope
Bangkok Post, Sunday 18th November 2007