By Pravit Rojanaphruk
Various campaigns and lobbying activities had to be undertaken before the Philippines eventually did away with capital punishment in 2006, a legal expert and abolitionist told Thai academics and activists .
Thodore Te, a former coordinator of the Manila-based Free Legal Assistant Group and an assistant professor of law at the University of the Philippines, said relatives of people on death row had been organised, politicians approached and lobbied, and an imperfect judicial system highlighted for being particularly biased against the poor and less educated.
Te said the Philippines was fortunate because back in 2006, the then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was unpopular and needed something to boost her ratings, and so she pushed the bill to abolish the death penalty, which also served to popularise her visit to the Pope at the Vatican.
Te said Thailand, a country where Buddhists compose the majority of the population, should be able to abolish the death penalty as Buddhism teaches people to abstain from taking lives of not just humans but other sentient beings as well.
Thai legal experts and activists met Te in Bangkok yesterday in an event organised by the Thai Chapter of Amnesty International. They expressed frustration, however, saying many Buddhist monks were not supportive of the abolition of the death penalty, some citing the law of karma.
A source from Amnesty International Thailand also said none of the major political parties in Thailand today have expressed interest in supporting the abolition of capital punishment.
Te said in the Philippines, both senators and members of the House of Representatives were approached, with particular interest paid to those who are non-committal because there’s room to convince them or change their minds.
Thailand has succeeded in getting the debate to the senate’s committee level, but attempts to have it considered by the Parliament committee on human rights have been rejected, said a source.
Currently, there’s no visible Buddhist scholar who would advocate abolition of the death penalty, the source added.