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MONDAY, September 25, 2023

Senator opposes shorter minimum jail term to be considered for royal pardon

Senator opposes shorter minimum jail term to be considered for royal pardon
WEDNESDAY, April 13, 2022

A senator on Wednesday voiced his opposition to a Justice Ministry proposal to reduce the minimum jail term before a convict can become eligible for a royal pardon.

Somchai Sawaengkarn, chairman of the Senate committee on human rights, rights and liberty, and consumer protection, said he disagreed with the shorter imprisonment period proposed by the Justice Ministry on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, the ministry informed the Cabinet of new criteria used for considering whether inmates would be eligible for royal pardons on the occasion of key national events, such as HM the King’s birthday.

In one criterion, the ministry said inmates, to be eligible for royal pardon, must serve one-third of their jail term or at least eight years, whichever is earlier.

Somchai wondered on what basis the ministry had come up with the eight-year minimum imprisonment period. He said eight years would be too short for inmates who have received a 50-year or longer jail sentences.

“I wonder how the eight-year idea came up. Will it be appropriate to pardon a convict who has received a 50-year jail term or life imprisonment?” Somchai asked.

“The Justice Ministry should consider only one-third imprisonment criterion or at least 15 years.”

Somchai said he would like MPs to consider amending the Criminal Procedure Code of Thailand to set clear-cut criteria for royal pardon.

The senator said the 2021 royal decree for granting royal pardon need not be amended but the government should be alerted to unusual enforcement of the decree.

Somchai said some prison commanders have proposed reductions in jail terms of some inmates three times in just one year. Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin should investigate these instances.

“I believe only a few hundred inmates have received jail term reductions up to three times in one year,” Somsak said.

“The minister must find out if such criteria for reduction of jail term three times a year was available for all 200,000 or 300,000 inmates, or whether they were used for just some cases.

“I’m not saying dishonourable practices have taken place, but I simply doubt whether the criteria were used for all inmates. This could be investigated as to how many inmates have received reduction in jail term three times from the Corrections Department.”

He called on the National Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate the cases in which certain inmates had suspiciously received jail-term reductions three times in one year.