Monday, August 31, 2009

THAILAND EDITORIAL towards a new 'moratorium'

This Editorial and one below is thanks to Dr. Rick Halperin's Death Pen News and Updates

New 'moratorium' needed on executions

On Monday last week Thailand resumed the practice of state executions by putting to death by lethal injection Bundit Jaroenwanit, 45, and Jirawat Poompruek, 52, both arrested on March 29, 2001, on drug trafficking charges. At the time of the last executions in 2003 there was a lot of local and international criticism of the country's stance on capital punishment

. With the absence of executions and so many major and minor crises popping up in the meantime, the issue had been put on a back burner. Now, however, the national debate on capital punishment will surely resume, as well it should.

There are a number of questions that seem destined to remain unanswered. No explanation has been given on why the 6-year unofficial moratorium on executions was suddenly broken, and apparently the 2 prisoners themselves were unaware of their fate until an hour or so before they were given the lethal injections.

There has been no word either on why these particular two men were chosen on such short notice to serve their punishment, or whether more executions will take place in the near future.

At present there are more than 700 prisoners under sentence of death in Thailand.

Every convicted prisoner, including those under sentence of death, has a right to petition His Majesty the King for a pardon, and over the years a number have received the royal pardon. Even if no pardon is given, however, historically a large percentage of those on death row are not executed but die of natural causes.

The Thai Criminal Code guarantees that after a prisoner is given a sentence of capital punishment he/she has the right to appeal to the Appeals Court and then the Supreme Court. Presumably Bundit and Jirawat did go through this process.

However, scant details of the court history of the cases against the 2 men have been made public.

Admittedly, the lack of clarity in the situation can be attributed to the media to some extent, but the difficulty in obtaining information is distressing to say the least.

There is no reason to believe that these men were given anything less than the due process guaranteed by law, but complete transparency in such a literally life-or-death matter should always be the order of the day.

Thailand is one of a number of Asian countries in which drug offences are punishable by death. It has been reported that Bundit and Jirawat were caught in possession of more than 114,000 methamphetamine pills. Proponents of the death penalty will correctly point out that this much methamphetamine is capable of causing a tremendous amount of misery, particularly among the young. But the chief justification for capital punishment is not to inflict revenge, it is to prevent future crimes of a serious nature.

In a response to Monday's executions, on Thursday the EU made known its position on this point: ''The European Union would like to state its well-known position that the death penalty has not been found to act as a deterrent and that any miscarriage of justice _ which is inevitable in any legal system _ is irreversible.'' Calling capital punishment ''cruel and inhuman'', the EU called on the Thai government to abolish the death penalty and establish a moratorium in the meantime.

The United Nations General Assembly has overwhelmingly passed several resolutions calling for a moratorium on the death penalty, most recently on December 20, 2008. As might be expected, Thailand did not vote in favour of the moratorium, but such international pressure is a major reason why there were no executions for 6 years.

Now would be a good time to begin a new and official moratorium, especially given the mysterious nature of the unannounced executions on Monday.

(source: Editorial, Bangkok Post)

AUGUST 29, 2009:

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