By THE NATION
ORGANISATIONS campaigning to abolish the death penalty in Thailand have now drawn up a bill that aims to replace the ultimate punishment with life imprisonment.
“We are now in the process of gathering the opinions of stakeholders on our draft law,” Gothom Arya, president of the Peace and Culture Foundation, said yesterday.
Gothom said the foundation and its allies had started drafting the “Life Imprisonment in Place of Death Penalty Bill” three months ago.
“We are now gathering the signatures of supporters. If at least 10,000 people sign the petition, we will propose it as a draft law to the National Legislative Assembly,” he explained.
If the bill does not attract a huge number of supporters, then the network will consider handing it over to an agency interested in pushing it forward, he said.
He was speaking after attending a meeting yesterday on the draft bill at the Office of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
Gothom told the meeting that international criminology studies had found that capital punishment was not an effective deterrent.
“It should also be noted that the United Nations at its general assembly resolved to suspend capital punishment,” he said.
Also, there was no way to restore justice in case a wrongly convicted person is executed.
Gothom also views the death penalty as an infringement on people’s most fundamental right – to live.
“I think the death penalty should be replaced by life imprisonment. We can move toward that step by step,” he said.
Assoc Professor Srisobat Chokprajakcatt, a lecturer at Mahidol University, noted that some convicts on death row have said they preferred death to spending the rest of their lives in jail.
Gothom called on the Justice Ministry and relevant agencies to start a national discussion about capital punishment and its alternatives.
They could start by releasing the findings of studies on life imprisonment, the death penalty, crime prevention and remedial actions for the wrongly accused or convicted.
“With effective communication, the public will understand why we should make the change,” he said.
Jiraporn Tamchu, a specialist at the Rights and Liberties Protection Department, told the same meeting that there had been several positive signs for change.
“Convicts on death row can petition for a royal pardon,” he said.
“Another [good sign] is that we have already cancelled the use of the death penalty against convicts aged under 18, pregnant convicts and those with mental disorders.”
Chuleeporn Dejkham, a senior official at the NHRC, said opponents might need to wait for the appropriate time to push to abolish capital punishment if they wanted to succeed.