Thailand / ‘Resumed use of the death penalty marks a major setback for human rights’

Posted on: June 21, 2018 | Current Affairs

A 26-year-old Thai man has been executed by lethal injection, making it the first case of capital punishment in the country since 2009. Despite the decision being slammed by international human rights groups, polls have suggested a majority of Thais support the death penalty

Thailand activists and volunteers hold placards as they gather to call for an end to executions in Thailand Photo: Narong Sangnak / EPA-EFE

Theerasak Longji was charged with aggravated murder six years ago and despite repeatedly claiming innocence, was put to death on 18 June. It is the first time in nine years that a prisoner has been executed in Thailand, breaking a de facto moratorium on capital punishment that had been incorporated into the national action plan on human rights.

“Thailand’s resumed use of the death penalty marks a major setback for human rights,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Thai government’s many pledges about moving toward abolishing the death penalty clearly meant nothing.”

Thailand’s Corrections Department stated that the country was focused on “protecting society, rather than the rights and freedoms of wrongdoers,” and this stance has been backed up by public opinion.

A series of online polls were conducted in the immediate aftermath of the execution, and in most it was shown that a large majority of Thai citizens agreed with capital punishment as a form of justice.

In one, conducted by a popular Facebook page called Drama-addict, 96% of nearly 125,000 people stated that they were in favour of Thailand continuing to execute the worst criminals, the Nation reported.

Longji was convicted of stabbing a 17-year-old 24 times before running off with the victim’s mobile phone and some money. However, Longji’s mother has said that her son may have been unjustly charged.

“That’s why he always refused to plead guilty in court, even though [he knew] doing so would provide grounds for leniency,” she told the Nation.

As of April of this year there were 517 prisoners, of which 102 were women, on death row in Thailand, according to the Corrections Department. In a statement, Human Rights Watch decried this form of punishment, citing its “inherent cruelty”.

“The ineffectiveness of the death penalty in combating crime is evident the world over, and this cruel practice has no place in modern society,” Adams said. “Thailand should immediately stop all executions and abolish the death penalty once and for all.”