PRACHUAP KIRI KHAN — An appeals court yesterday reaffirmed the death sentence for a railway worker who raped and murdered a teen girl in 2014.
Wanchai Saengkhao, 23, was sentenced to death by the court last September for killing a 13-year-old girl by throwing her from a moving train, on which he worked as staff, after raping her during the night. Wanchai’s defense team appealed the verdict on the grounds his life should be spared because he had repented his action.
“His argument that he has repented his wrongdoing is inadmissible,” the judge said, rejecting Wanchai’s call for leniency and affirming the death penalty. But the Court of Appeals in Prachuap Kiri Khan province yesterday
Under Thai law, those sentenced to death have 60 days to appeal the verdict. The execution cannot be carried out unless the case is considered final.
Somjet Amnuaysawasdi, head of Seventh District Appeals Court, said prosecutors will not appeal the verdict, but Wanchai has the right to do so if he believes the sentence should be overturned.
Wanchai’s defense team has not publicly commented whether they will appeal.
Wanchai Bunnag, the lawyer representing the victim’s family, said his clients are satisfied with the court’s affirmation of death penalty for the convict. “The [victim’s] relatives have always been confident in the justice system from the beginning of the case. They are confident that that they will receive fairness,” the lawyer said.
The rape and murder of the 13-year-old Kachakorn Pitakchamnong took place on a night train operated by the State Railway of Thailand, or SRT, as it was passing through Prachuap Kiri Khan in the early morning of 6 July. Wanchai, an SRT custodian, was later arrested by police and confessed that he committed the crime after getting high on methamphetamine while on duty.
The incident became a national sensation in Thailand for weeks, igniting debates about SRT’s safety standards, the factors contributing to rape and its appropriate penalty.
Four days after the attack, the railway’s governor, Prapat Chongsanguan, was sacked by the ruling military junta, which came to power in a coup d’etat nearly two months earlier. The SRT then rolled out policies intended to protect women and children, such as women- and children-only passenger cars.
Pro-death penalty activists also seized on the incident to campaign for making rapes punishable by death; under current law, rape carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and a rape committed with use of a weapon is punishable by life in prison.
Capital punishment in Thailand had fallen out of favor by the time the country changed its means of execution to lethal injection in 2003. That year, four people were executed and since then, two were executed in 2009, according to Amnesty International. All were executed for drug-related offenses.
The campaign for capital punishment of rapists was spearheaded by former beauty pageant winner Panadda Wongphudee and endorsed by the family of the 13-year-old girl raped and murdered by Wanchai.
Supporters of the death penalty insist that executing rapists would decrease the number of rape incidents, though human rights activists say there is little proof the death penalty is an effective deterrent against crimes.