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

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