Thailand’s proposed death penalty for corruption a stunt, experts say

By: Logan Connor - Posted on: January 11, 2017 | Current Affairs

Those convicted of corruption in Thailand involving more than one billion baht could face the death penalty under a new proposal

Rain in Thailand
Photo: EPA/NARONG SANGNAK

A proposal by the Thai government to impose the death penalty in some corruption cases is largely “for show”, according to analysts.

Under plans approved by the junta-appointed National Reform Steering Committee, officials convicted of corruption involving sums of money above one billion baht ($28.1m) would be executed by lethal injection. The plans also dictate that officials found guilty of corrupt practices worth less than 1 billion baht could face up to five years in jail.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai political scholar self-exiled in Japan, said while the proposal was an effort by the junta to show that it is “serious about battling the problem with corruption”, it is likely an empty gesture.

“I think it is more for show. This is because even those associated with the junta are also tainted by corruption scandals,” Pavin said, mentioning corruption allegations levied against the brother of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha for allegedly securing military and construction contracts for family members.

“It is, therefore, ironic for the junta to start to talk about the death penalty against the those committing this crime,” Pavin said.

The death penalty is infrequently applied in Thailand, and was last carried out in 2009 against two men convicted of drug trafficking.

In September, ousted prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who is facing a number of corruption charges, said the current government was hypocritical in its approach to corruption crackdowns.

“The Prime Minister (Prayut) says that all the legal actions against me are based on the law and are not bullying,” Yingluck wrote in a Facebook post.

“I would like the Prime Minister to apply the same logic and justice given to me like he gives justice and protection to his brother and other people who are on his side,” she wrote. “Because the laws should be enforced for everyone, not just used only against my side.”

According to Charnvit Kasetsiri, a Thai historian and former rector of Thammasat University, most in Thailand will likely be sceptical of the proposed law’s efficacy.

“The public probably see this as drama,” Charnvit said. “If it is passed, it will not be enforced like many of the laws in Thailand.”

While 155 of 162 members of the National Reform Steering Committee voted in favour of the measure of Monday, it must now be submitted to the cabinet of Thailand, parliament, then to a constitution committee, according to Reuters.