Thailand moves towards abolition of death penalty

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Graphic: amnestyusa.org

The Anti-Death Penalty Asian Network (Adpan) welcomes Thailand’s commitment to abolish the death penalty.

At the second cycle of the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Thailand in Geneva on 11 May 2016, the Thailand delegation led by the minister of justice renewed its commitment to the abolition of the death penalty in Thailand.

In the final remarks on 11 May, the Thai delegation orally mentioned that even though some 80 per cent of Thais are against the abolition of the death penalty, the government is committed to work towards abolition.

They reported that Thailand had been undertaking studies with a view towards abolition for the past five years. The delegation said that Thailand’s plan towards abolition will be carried out in three stages.

In the first stage, there will be a return of discretion in sentencing to judges for offences that carry the death penalty.

In the second stage, there will the abolition of death penalty for certain offences.

And lastly, the death penalty will be abolished.

Whilst Thailand outlined the steps towards total abolition, Adpan notes that no specific time frame was stipulated and urges Thailand to immediately commit to a moratorium on all executions and specify in greater detail its plan towards abolition, in particular the time frame.

The last known executions took place In Thailand in August 2009, when two men were executed in Thailand for drug trafficking offenses. The previous executions took place in 2003, and it was allegedly to also test the new method of execution by lethal injection.

READ MORE:  Drug mules on death row: Why we need to abolish the death penalty

Of late, the penalty for offences has increased. In March 2015, the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2008 was amended to make human trafficking a capital offence if it causes a trafficking victim’s death. In July 2015, an amendment to the Anti-Corruption Act expanded the death penalty to also foreign officials and staff of international organisations who demand or accept a bribe.

Adpan notes that sadly that on 13 May 2016, Thailand only supported limited recommendations of member states with regard to the death penalty, that is, to:-

  • take measures to abolish the death penalty (Madagascar); take measures aimed at abolishing the death penalty (Togo); take concrete steps towards abolishing the death penalty (Brazil); take steps towards abolishing the death penalty (Georgia); and
  • reconsider the abolition of the death penalty as a sentence for various crimes (Ecuador); review the imposition of the death penalty for offences related to drug trafficking (Slovenia);

With regard to the other recommendations, including the establishing of a moratorium on executions, the ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the commutation of death sentence and the abolition of the death penalty, Thailand stated that they will only provide responses in due time, but no later than the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council in September 2016.

Adpan urges Thailand to immediately establish a moratorium on executions pending the consideration of these remaining recommendations, and by September 2016, to extend this moratorium pending abolition of the death penalty.

Adpan also urges Thailand to adhere to the five United Nations General Assembly resolutions, the first in 2007 and the fifth in 2014. The global trend is towards abolition, calling for the abolition of the death penalty, and for a moratorium pending abolition.

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Charles Hector issued this on behalf of the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (Adpan), a network of groups and individuals from about 22 Asia-Pacific countries.

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