The abolition of Thailand’s death penalty?
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
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