Saturday, August 28, 2010

13 Young Thai Women Condemned to Death in China

In the latest data from the Department of Corrections listed below, there are 68 women condemned to death on drug charges in Thai jails. The figure is sharply increased if we include Thai women condemned to death abroad. At the same time as we were debating in Bangkok the linkage of Drugs and the Death Penalty also reported below, 13 young Thai women were condemned to death in China on drug charges.
All of the women are under 40 years of age, the youngest is 20, and several others are in their twenties. The little that is known of their predicament is reported by an article in the Thai women’s magazine “Koosang Koosom“ by a reporter who accompanied relatives of the girls who were allowed to visit them in a Guangzhou jail in Guangdong province. A Thai monk accompanied the group and was allowed to address the young women for 4 minutes. Two newspaper reporters were present at the meeting but were prohibited to speak to the prisoners.
Some of the women are from Isaan. One 22 year old from Samut Prakhan had opened a beauty parlour in Pattaya where a young black man made friendly overtures to her. A woman in Aranyapradhet was also courted by a young black who invited her to accompany him abroad on the understanding that they would marry on their return to Thailand. A 33 three year old in Bangkok who graduated in accountancy often spent time on the Internet. She told her mother that she had a black foreign friend who was inviting her to help in carrying some documents in a cloth bag relating to trading in the South of Thailand. Her mother asked to meet this friend but her daughter left home. She phoned from Chumphon, then from the South of Thailand, and finally from Mumbai. In answering her mother’s question she said that she did not know the nature of the work she was doing. A final telephone call was from China, saying that she would return home in a few days. Ten days later a letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed her that her daughter had been arrested and sentenced to death on drug charges in Guangzhou.
A 35 year old from Ubon Ratchathani was invited to Malaysia to go here and there. All of them ended their journeys in the Women’s Prison of Guangzhou and were sentenced to death.
On further enquiry the news reporter learned that the heroin is produced in Afghanistan. It is transported through Pakistan to India. The Thai women were the ‘mules’ who transported the heroin on the final stage to Guangzhou, a densely populated area which was the one of the new China’s rapidly developed prosperous centres, where the drug market also flourished. The 13 Thai women were seduced by promises of independence and freedom, to participate in the international drug trade, schooled by false lovers who made it all seem easy and without risk. Most, or all, are first time offenders who began by being duped to become minor players in a world wide trade where the profits go to the organizers and the pain is borne by the foolish carriers.

Details of their trial are unknown other than that their offence is drug related. China’s courts pass a death sentence for possession of a quantity of drugs exceeding 50 grams. (The writer of the article appears shocked by this limited amount, unaware that in Thailand the death penalty may be imposed for a quantity of only 20 grams). More persons are executed in China than in the rest of the world, but in recent years it appears that authorities are learning that the death penalty does not solve crime, least of all drug crime. They are aware too that abolition of the death penalty has become a criterion of civilized life throughout the world and that the barbaric, and often public, executions in China are presenting a revolting picture of an inhumane Chinese justice system. Already, a ruling has been made that all death sentences throughout the country must be reviewed by a central court, a measure reducing the number of executions handed down by incompetent and arbitrary courts throughout the country. In addition there is in place a policy of suspension of death sentences for one year to observe and assess the potentiality of the prisoner for reform. If after one year the prognosis is positive, the sentence of death is changed to one of imprisonment. In the most favourable of cases where the prisoner shows genuine regret and a will to reform, imprisonment may be reduced to ten years. This is the hope of the 13 young Thai women. One may be confident that the resilience of these women, and certainly their regret at having fallen into this awful trap, will lead to their emergence from the prison of Guangzhou. They will need the help of their families of which there is no doubt, and also of the support of the consular services of the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, embodied in a programme called “Last Hope Project”.

Chinese imprisonment is extremely strict but also punctilious. The health and wellbeing of prisoners is guaranteed. Nothing can be taken for granted, there is no relaxation of security and nothing resembling a ‘human face’ to the prison system.
But when one compares it with the appalling conditions of imprisonment in the Thai corrections system, the arbitrariness of judgment, the death penalties imposed on the word of police witnesses, and what can only be called, the vindictiveness of the treatment of drug related convicted prisoners, the condition of the 13 Thai women in Guangzhou is not the worst fate of all. Would that a “Last Hope Project” could be extended to Thai prisoners in Thai jails. It is important that the fate of the 13 young women be known to Thai people. Popular opinion is likely to be sympathetic to their case and wish them well to return to their homeland. And, hopefully, this sympathy may extend to the unfortunates who suffer even worse conditions and less hope of a positive outcome, in our own jails on Thai soil.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

18 Countries that Killed in 2009 Include Thailand

Around the world
* There are 58 countries that still retain capital punishment, while 104 countries have abolished it and 35 have stopped executions in practice.

* At least 714 people were executed in 2009, though the total does not include China, which did not provide a figure.

* The 18 countries known to have conducted executions in 2009 were: Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Libya, Malaysia, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, the United States, Vietnam and Yemen.

* Hanging, shooting, beheading, stoning, electrocution and lethal injection are common methods of executing people.

* The countries that executed the most people include Iran with at least 388, Iraq at least 120, Saudi Arabia at least 69, and the United States with 52. But China has likely conducted more executions than the rest of the world combined.

* There are 35 countries that in practice have a moratorium on executions. These are Algeria, Benin, Brunei, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Eritrea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Kenya, Laos, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Myanmar, Nauru, Niger, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Congo, Russia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Tonga, Tunisia and Zambia.

* In the United States, death sentences and executions have been falling due to heated debate about innocent people being put to death, as well as the high costs of the process, including facilities and trial costs. There was a de-facto moratorium on executions from late 2007 to early 2008 as the Supreme Court heard a challenge to the lethal injection method, which it rejected in April 2008.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Latest Statistics for Prisoners Condemned to Death in Thailand

Death Penalty Statistics after Judgment in Court of First Instance Thailand,
16th August 2010

For all crimes
Sex... Appeal Court... Supreme Court... Juridical Process Complete.... .Total

For drug related crimes
Sex....Appeal Court....Supreme Court....Juridical Process Complete....Total

For crimes of homicide and others
Sex....Appeal Court....Supreme Court....Juridical Process Complete....Total

Source: Department of Corrections, Bangkok

Stop Execution in Iran

Sakinseh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, 43 years, was condemned to death for adultery.
Sakineh M Ashtiani, has two children, and has been imprisoned in the northwestern Iranian city of Tabriz since 2005. She was already lashed 99 times in 2006. She was sentenced to death by stoning but due to international outcry the sentence to death by stoning was cancelled. It was reported that it was still possible that she would be hanged. However, in a new development she was put on a state-run TV programme where she confessed to adultery and involvement in the murder of her husband. Speaking shakily in her native Azeri language, which could be heard through a voiceover, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani told an interviewer that she was an accomplice to the murder of her husband and that she had an extramarital relationship with her husband's cousin. Her lawyer claimed that his client, a 43-year-old mother of two, was tortured for two days before the interview was recorded in Tabriz prison, where she has been held for the past four years. "She was severely beaten up and tortured until she accepted to appear in front of camera. Her 22-year-old son, Sajad and her 17-year-old daughter Saeedeh who had strongly defended the innocence of their mother, are completely traumatised by watching this programme". She is now in danger of execution either by hanging, or by stoning, the possibility of the latter punishment being reintroduced by the new charge of murder.
Whatever the complexities of the case, her execution clearly lacks all legitimate legal procedure. It is unspeakable that she should be stoned to death on any count.
Iran is reckoned to be an Asian country so that we have a particular interest in the case. We recommend that our readers address their dismay and rejection of the awful punishments unjustly menacing this woman. We may do so on arguments of justice, but we can also appeal to the motivation of an Islam whose primary attribution of Allah is that he is All Merciful.
The name and address of the representative of Iran in Thailand are:
H.E. Mr. Majid BIZMARK
106&106/1 Soi Charoen Mitt,
(Ekamai Soi 10) Sukhumvit 63,
Khlong Tan Nuea, Watthana,
Bangkok 10110
whose duty is to convey the communications of Thai people to his superiors.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Confession without proof not acceptable

In Thailand as in Japan too much reliance is placed on confession
In the mind of the Courts, the police, and the general public the confession of an accused person is the ultimate proof of guilt. Police in Thailand, work hard to get a confession of guilt, which shortcuts the need to have credible evidence. The prisoner is offered a reduced sentence, prison rather than execution, if they will sign a confession. But experience world wide shows that a confession of guilt is not necessarily a proof of guilt. Recently I attended a trial where the judge offered leniency for such a confession. Conviction should not rest on a confession alone, and this awful trading of a reduced sentence for a confession is not justice.

A recent case in Japan illustrates the issue.
In December 1991 Mr. Sugaya, then a 45-year-old divorced school bus driver with no friends, was arrested by Japanese police in connection with the grisly murder in 1990 of a 4-year-old girl. After 13 hours of interrogation, during which Mr. Sugaya says the police kicked his shins and shouted at him, he tearfully admitted to that murder and to killing two other girls. He was convicted of one murder and sentenced to life in prison.
But last year, after prosecutors admitted that his confession was a fabrication made under duress and that a DNA test used as evidence had been wrong, Mr. Sugaya was released. A court later acquitted him.
The disclosure that Mr. Sugaya had been wrongfully imprisoned for more than 17 years shocked Japan even more than his conviction as a serial killer had.
Mr. Sugaya said the question he is now asked the most is why he confessed so quickly to crimes he did not commit. Describing himself as insecure and “excessively spineless,” he said his willpower just seemed to collapse after what he said were hours of police officers screaming at him so loudly that his ears still ring 19 years later. He said he finally confessed to all three killings just so the ordeal would end.
During his years of imprisonment, he said, he met other convicts who told him they too had been convicted because of false confessions. Now at the age of 63 he tours Japan to relate his experience in order to save others from sharing his fate.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Drugs and the Death Penalty

Seminar in Bangkok on 29th July 2010
In countries where enforcement of the death penalty is still considered compatible with the observance of human rights covenants, the accepted reading of international law is that it must be limited to the punishment of “most serious crimes”. It is further interpreted that “most serious crimes”, should intend only intentional homicide.
The enforcement of the death penalty for drug crimes is an area of serious dispute. There is no doubt that drugs are a major source of crime in the present day world, but that the problem can be solved by inflicting the death penalty on the agents of the drug trade is an altogether different proposition.UCL is against the death penalty in any form and for any crime, but there are special arguments against its imposition on drug charges. Such arguments are the subject matter of this seminar.

Council of Europe and Keynote Speaker
The Council of Europe is the largest grouping of countries in the world, in an area stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific and including countries of the most varied cultures, histories, and religious beliefs. It has accumulated a vast experience in statehood and the promotion of civilized living. The Council of Europe, based in Strasbourg (France), now covers virtually the entire European continent, with 47 member countries. Founded on 5 May 1949 by 10 countries, the Council seeks to develop throughout Europe common and democratic principles based on the European Convention on Human Rights and other reference texts on the protection of individuals.
From its foundation in 1949 the Council has emphasized that abolition of the death penalty is an essential element of Human Rights, Democracy, and the Rule of Law. Since 1985 abolition is a condition of membership of the Council.
Keynote Speaker
The keynote speaker of the seminar on drugs and the death penalty is Mrs. Renate Wohlwend, member of parliament of Lichtenstein and delegate to the Council of Europe, former Vice-President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and Rapporteur on the death penalty for the Assembly. Dr. Wohlwend, has been speaking and writing on abolition of the death penalty for over a decade. She can draw on the experience of member states of the Council to illustrate the essential contribution of abolition to civilized living, and to respond to problems which still beleaguer states hesitating to abandon capital punishment.
"In Europe no governing party has lost an election due to abolition. The prior introduction of a moratorium on executions has helped to reassure the general public that stopping executions does not mean rising crime," Renate Wohlwend
“Capital punishment, like torture is simply wrong”
“The death penalty only brutalizes society by further legitimizing cold-blooded killing as justice. It is a fallacy that it prevents violent crime”. Death is not justice, Council of Europe publication.