Monday, May 14, 2012

Death of Thai Executioner

At the end of April, Khun Chavorat Jaruboon , the executioner of Bang Kwang prison, died of cancer.
His wife prayed that he would be accepted in the afterworld by the 55 persons he had executed. No doubt they will have learned the wisdom of pardon and be merciful to him.
The best that can be said of him is that he tried to make the process of execution as efficient as possible. One cannot say, as painless as possible, for execution is the most horrendous injury which can be inflicted on a human being.

Why did he volunteer to be executioner, the choice was his? He mentions that he needed the cash payments of  2000 baht he received each time he carried out a killing. He also enjoyed the prominence he received from his superiors and from those outside who knew his trade; in ordinary prison service he would have passed unnoticed. The British Embassy liked to have him on show at receptions.

A Canadian film, 'The Widow of St. Pierre' depicts a small French colony having neither a guillotine nor an executioner. A murder is committed in a moment of drunken rage. The murderer could have passed his life in some kind of penal servitude if he had not attracted the interest and attraction of the wife of the Governor of St. Pierre. To end the gossip of the island, a guillotine was imported. But an executioner was not available. Eventually, an illegal immigrant was pressed to take on the post.

Executions require an executioner. Khun Chavorat accepted the mandate of the State to execute as directed. But he was also a Buddhist and knew well that the primary teaching of the Buddha was a respect for all living things and a consequent prohibition on killing. He consulted the monk who accepted the bodies of those executed in the temple adjoining the prison, who told him that his act was good as it gave entry to a new incarnation for those whose fate it was to die for their crimes.
He accepted the command of the State and the rationalisation  of religion, ending the days of execution with a beer drinking session.

Such is the personal tragedy of the one who takes on our responsibility of punishment. Violence is accepted in the State, in the life of the executioner, and in the lives of all of us.
On an occasion when I met Khun Chavorat, he held out his hand in greeting. Perhaps he did not sense my hesitation to return the hand shake. It took a moment for me to realise that I too, citizen of a country which executes, was also an executioner. Chavorat was my deputy.

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