The abo­li­tion of Thai­land’s death penalty?

Southeast Asia Globe - - Contents - BY PAUL MIL­LAR

Al­most a decade since the last ex­e­cu­tion in Thai­land, a 26-year-old man was killed by lethal in­jec­tion for the fren­zied stab­bing of a teenager. And though no one is say­ing why the na­tion has sud­denly re­versed its po­si­tion on cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment, ru­mours that it is con­nected to the royal suc­ces­sion are dif­fi­cult to ig­nore

TWO

months ago, 26-year-old Teerasak Longji was stretched out on a rack and killed. In decades past, the young Thai man would have stared down a fir­ing squad in his fi­nal wak­ing mo­ments. But in 2018, his end came via a lethal cock­tail of drugs.

Teerasak, whose fam­ily was not no­ti­fied un­til af­ter his death, was just 20 years old when he was ar­rested for stab­bing a teenage boy in a bloody rob­bery in Thai­land’s Trang prov­ince. His vic­tim, who was stabbed 24 times by Teerasak, lost his wal­let, his phone and his life.

Teerasak’s ex­e­cu­tion marks the first death sen­tence to be car­ried out in Thai­land in al­most a decade fol­low­ing an ar­du­ous cam­paign against it in the Bud­dhist na­tion. Although Thai courts con­tinue to hand down death sen­tences – 75 last year alone, down from 216 in 2016 – hun­dreds of men and women have re­mained on death row for years, wait­ing for the fi­nal blow to fall.

Hu­man Rights Watch deputy Asia di­rec­tor Phil Robert­son de­scribed the move as a slap in the face to all the peo­ple who had cam­paigned for an end to ex­e­cu­tions in the King­dom.

“See­ing Thai­land make such a to­tal re­ver­sal on a core hu­man rights is­sue like the death penalty is re­ally dis­con­cert­ing,” he told

South­east Asia Globe. “The Min­istry of Jus­tice had pre­vi­ously been tout­ing that Thai­land was mov­ing to­wards abo­li­tion and then boom, it was all gone. The NCPO [Na­tional Coun­cil for Peace and Or­der, the name adopted by the mil­i­tary junta that seized power in 2014] needs to pro­vide some se­ri­ous ex­pla­na­tions to the en­tire in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity for its un­jus­ti­fied and un­ac­cept­able re­sump­tion of cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment.”

De­spite wide­spread in­ter­na­tional con­dem­na­tion of the move, no ex­pla­na­tion for the ap­par­ently ar­bi­trary re­in­sti­tu­tion of the death penalty has been of­fered. For some ob­servers, though, the de­ci­sion marked a log­i­cal next step in the junta’s on­go­ing at­tempt to paint it­self as the stern guardian of the Thai peo­ple. Ex­iled po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist Pavin Chachavalpong­pun told South­east Asia Globe that the re­vival of a prac­tice long thought left in the past fit with Prime Min­is­ter Prayuth Chan-ocha’s self-pro­claimed strong­man im­age. E

An in­mate holds a por­trait of the late Thai King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej as oth­ers sing the royal an­them at the Cen­tral Cor­rec­tional In­sti­tu­tion for Young Of­fend­erson the out­skirts of Bangkok

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