By Pravit Rojanaphruk
THAILAND ranks somewhere in the middle among nations in Southeast Asia when it comes to abolishing the death penalty, with the Kingdom criticised for a "lack of tangible advancement" towards abolishing executions in a United Nations report released yester
Although Cambodia, the Philippines and East Timor have abolished the death penalty, Thailand still maintains it, although no execution has taken place since 2009 and the country is regarded as a “retentionist state”.
As of June 30 last year, there were at least 612 people on “death row” in the Kingdom and the year 2013 alone saw 294 people sentenced to death.
Crimes punishable by death in Thailand include offences against royalty, internal and external security, and liberty, and offences relating to sexuality causing death.
The 44-page report by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ regional office for Southeast Asia, titled “Moving Away from the Death Penalty: Lessons in Southeast Asia”, noted that Thailand, in its most recent review by the Committee against Torture, had stated that it would consider a moratorium on the death penalty.
“Abolition of the death penalty was included in the draft of [Thailand’s] Third National Human Rights Action Plan (2014-2018), but there has since been a lack of tangible advancement in abolishing the death penalty, and a high number of death sentences were passed in 2013, almost half of them [for] drug-related offences,” the report stated.
It said recommended that Thailand impose a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to abolition, as outlined in the current National Human Rights Action Plan.
The outlook in Southeast Asia is mixed, as the report stated that of the 11 countries in the region, Cambodia, East Timor and the Philippines had consistently voted for UN General Assembly resolutions on moratoriums on the use of the death penalty. But Brunei, Malaysia, Myanmar and Singapore have consistently voted against such resolutions.
Thailand voted against the moratorium in 2007 and 2008 but changed its position by abstaining from voting in 2010 and 2012. Despite this, the report noted that Southeast Asia is generally part of the global trend against practising the death penalty.
All countries in Southeast Asia have legislation that ensures exceptions to the death penalty for children, pregnant women, and people with mental or intellectual disabilities.
The report also noted that while some 160 countries had either abolished the death penalty, observed a moratorium or ceased practising it, a minority of countries still execute people.
“In some of these countries, the death penalty is mandatory for drug-related offences. The mandatory death penalty is problematic because it goes against the prohibition of the arbitrary deprivation of life and violates the right to fair trial.”