Saturday, January 07, 2012

Abolition of Death Penalty in Thailand - a beginning

The 2nd Five Year Human Rights Plan of Thailand contained a brief announcement of intention to abolish the death penalty. It is already the fourth year of the plan and there seemed no movement on the issue. It was worrying that in its Universal Peer Review presentation to the Human Rights Council, no mention was made of abolition. But many countries recalled the promise to address abolition. They raised questions at the UPR session and recommended action on the issue.
The Union of Civil Liberty and Amnesty International were happy to learn in a meeting with officials in the Ministry of Justice that action to achieve abolition is indeed taking place. The unit with responsibility on abolition is the Rights and Liberties Department. The following is their detailed plan of action for the year 2010.

Detailed plan of activities to promote abolition by the Rights and Liberties Protection Department, Ministry of Justice

Activities in Year 2012 Months
1. Study the abolition of death penalty in various countries, both abolitionist and retentionist; the criteria and tendency in each, so as to establish the consequences of abolition 2 months
2. Study to determine the highest sanction which replaces the death penalty in countries which have abolished the death penalty 1 month
3. Study all Thai laws which incur the death penalty, aspects of such laws, and the level of violence for which sentence is imposed 3 months
4. Study the statistics of trials which have imposed the death sentence and trials which have resulted in executions over the last 10 years 2 months
5. Interview experts in human rights, legal matters, and judicial procedure, victims of crime, persons who were condemned to death, and the general public 1 month
6. Organize workshops in the four regions of Thailand and in Bangkok, for participants from every province to survey opinion on the theme, “The attitude of Thai society to abolition of the death penalty” 1 month
7. Make submission to committees and sub-committees on the proposal to abolish laws imposing the death penalty, presenting opinions and proposals resulting from studies 1 month
8. Prepare a summary of studies and suggestions for further action on the theme “Abolition of laws which impose the death penalty” as proposed in the 2nd National Human Rights Plan, for discussion by the Rights and Liberties Protection Department. 1 month

We welcome this concrete initiative which we will support in every way possible.
However, we are troubled that the collection of opinion throughout the country is not preceded or accompanied by a campaign to inform public opinion. The Thai public are unaware of progress made elsewhere and changing world wide choices on the death penalty. There is danger that uninformed opinion may win the day. There is also a glaring lack of reference to political leadership which has been essential to achieve abolition in every country in the world.
We are also worried by interest shown in the "highest sanction" which might replace the death penalty. This is surely "life sentence, without parole". Such a sanction is only another form of the death penalty, and just as unacceptable. We are proposing a maximum sanction equivalent to that available to the International Criminal Court, a maximum sentence of 30 years, or, in exceptional circumstances, a life sentence. Both, however, would allow for parole. Consideration for parole in case of a life sentence would begin after 25 years.

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