On Tuesday last, 2nd April, Sutawan Chanprasert, a Thai student in the Master of Arts Program in International Development Studies (MAIDS), Faculty of Political Studies, Chulalongkorn University, successfully defended a thesis on Rehabilitation for Prisoners under Sentence of Death in a Human Rights Perspective: A Case Study of Bang Kwang Central Prison.
The title of her thesis is an oxymoron, surely rehabilitation and sentence of death are incompatible! Nevertheless, there is a unique conjunction of a Thai condition and a window of opportunity which made her research possible. Thailand persists in handing down the death penalty; there are currently 687 prisoners condemned to death, 618 men, mostly detained in Bang Kwang prison, and 69 women. The research of Sutawan relates to the male prisoners held in Bang Kwang. The window of opportunity, of which she ingeniously availed, was the possibility of interviewing 10 of these prisoners, 5 prison authorities, 3 former prisoners, and one informed external person. The recently imposed "White Prison" policy which consists of a strict isolation of prisoners would surely hinder such interviews. The resolution of the apparent anomaly whereby rehabilitation could, and should, coexist with a death sentence lies in the fact that while prisoners are sentenced to death at a rate higher than one per week, very few are actually executed. Six have been executed in the last ten years. Eventually the large majority of prisoners benefit from a royal commutation of sentence to life imprisonment, and subsequent reductions in sentence which result in eventual release.
Prisoners remain under sentence of death for up to ten years until all legal procedures are completed. Such prisoners have been excluded from rehabilitation programmes. They live their lives in a no man's land of inactivity and are the subject of the thesis.
It is a innovative and unique investigation, with immense implications for the human rights of prisoners, and the very persistence of capital punishment. This website will report details of the thesis when the final formalities of thesis revision are completed and the 24 year old Sutawan graduates. Meanwhile, deathpenaltythailand hails her achievement.