Constitution Drafter Pushes for Executing Corrupt Politicians

A sign calls for former PMs Thaksin Shinawatra, at left, and his sister Yingluck Shinawatra to be jailed for corruption at a protest in New York City in September 2012. Image: PAD New England

BANGKOK — One of the drafters of Thailand’s new constitution made the case Wednesday that it was written to support sentencing corrupt politicians to death.

When the new constitution is royally endorsed and its supporting laws can be written, a member of the Constitution Drafting Committee said they should include a maximum punishment of the death penalty for corrupt politicians, a provision a former politico describes as “barbaric.”

“It’s not too harsh of a law, especially when you compare it to the Criminal Code, which has already had the death penalty for over 60 years now,” Norachit Sinhaseni said. ”The death penalty is already in effect for civil servants who take bribes.”

Norachit, who served as spokesman to the committee of junta-appointed drafters, said Wednesday that codifying capital punishment for politicians who “buy and sell their positions” is an appropriate solution to the nation’s problem of endemic corruption.

Kraisak Choonhavan, a political commentator and former Democrat Party MP, expressed strong opposition to the idea.

“It’s a very barbaric law. Using state power to execute politicians won’t decrease corruption,” he said. “Does corruption seem like something you should be executed for?”

Kraisak said the use of capital punishment was already questionable in Thailand’s unreliable criminal justice system, a fact that wouldn’t change when it was applied to politicians.

“What if you execute the wrong person? I don’t trust the Thai justice system. For example, look at the case of the Burmese killers in Koh Tao. That’s already suspicious,” he said.

But Norachit said existing law supports extending the death penalty to politicians.

“If it applies to civil servants, then why can’t it be applied to politicians?” Norachit said. “Buying and selling positions at the ministerial level creates much more severe damage than low-level civil servants doing the same thing.”

He added that it would serve the public interest.

“Citizens are always hearing news about politicians buying and selling their positions. It’s become Thailand’s problem. This is the solution,” Norachit said.

But Kraisak questioned whether the rigged justice system, in which the wealthy and powerful are sometimes not held accountable, should be trusted with meting out the ultimate punishment.

“Those with power can slip out of important cases,” he said. “There will insufficient investigation when the alleged corrupt politician is powerful. This is already something that we can see happening.”

He also said it would put Thailand at odds with international norms.

“Nowhere in the world … do politicians face the death penalty. Many countries have repealed capital punishment, except dictatorships such as China and Vietnam,” Kraisak said. “As a country, we have to ask, how many do we kill per year?”

Norachit said people should not be alarmed, as the death penalty would not be sought in every case but left up to the court’s discretion.

Those not executed “will be stripped of their position for life and unable to run for office,” he said.