By Apichart Hongsakul,
LESS THAN THREE months after his shocking crime, the man who raped and killed a 13-year-old girl inside a train compartment has been sentenced to death.
For many Thais who have been campaigning for rapists to face the death penalty, justice has finally been done.
In fact, one of the most prominent campaigners, former Miss Thailand Panadda Wongphudee, even showed up at court yesterday to hear the verdict herself.
The ruling was read out at the Hua Hin Court yesterday morning. The victims’ family was also there, with the late teenager’s mother crying throughout the session.
The court sentenced Wanchai Saengkhao, 22, to death for raping and killing the victim, stealing her belongings, and then trying to cover up his crime by throwing her body out of the moving train.
Wanchai’s colleague Nattakorn Chamnan was found guilty of aiding and abetting the sexual crime, and sentenced to four years in jail.
The girl was heading to Bangkok from the South with her family on July 5 when the grisly attack took place.
Wanchai and Nattakorn, who were then State Railway of Thailand (SRT) employees, initially denied any wrongdoing. The court said it showed no leniency to Wanchai because he only confessed to his crimes after being cornered with solid evidence.
“He did not confess out of repentance,” the court said.
It also pointed out that police and other SRT staff had to look for evidence themselves after the girl’s family lodged a complaint about the girl’s mysterious disappearance.
“No evidence was found based on information provided by Wanchai,” the court noted.
The victim’s family and rescue workers also had to scour the railway tracks for the victim’s body. Wanchai provided no information on where he threw the victim’s body, which was finally found near railway tracks in Prachuap Khiri Khan province.
Sperm found on her body and clothes were crucial in nailing down Wanchai, who was also found to have stolen and sold the girl’s cell-phone. He also stole her tablet PC and asked Nattakorn to sell it for him.
Though Nattakorn initially denied having a hand in the sexual crime, information provided by him later did prove to be useful to some extent. Hence, the court decided to commute his jail term by a third, from six down to four years.
Parinya Boonridrerthaikul, director of Amnesty International Thailand, said that while criminals need to be punished, capital punishment would not solve the problem.
“The death penalty will neither reduce the crime nor heal [the wounds suffered by the relatives of the victim],” she said, adding that the focus should instead be on preventive measures and understanding the reasons behind such crimes.
“We need all-rounded information as to what contributes to the crime,” she said, adding that Amnesty International pushed for abolition of the death penalty.