BANGKOK — Abolitionists will look to gradually reduce the amount of crimes liable to capital punishment instead of pushing for an outright end to the death penalty in Thailand, activists said Wednesday.
Gothom Araya, an advocate against capital punishment, said at a panel organized by the European Union mission in Bangkok that him and his colleagues would propose new legislation to change the punishment for some crimes from the death penalty to life imprisonment. He said some believe that convicts are executed because of their bad karma.
“Maybe capital punishment is going along with your karma,” Gothom said, adding that Thais believe in dualism – a clear distinction between good and evil – and that the process towards abolition wouldn’t occur immediately. “I think we need time.”
The move comes after the first execution in nine years took place in June, leaving capital punishment opponents surprised. The panel, held at the Alliance Francaise, marked the 16th World Day Against Death Penalty.
Gothom said he and his colleagues wanted “drug trafficking and corruption” removed from crimes punishable by the death penalty.
Gothom acknowledged that there’s popular support for the retention of the death penalty. He said opponents who protested against the latest execution in June had been accused of “siding with the criminals.” This, he added, is supported by a belief that if there’s no death penalty, convicts will return to society and do harm.
Calling death penalty “cruel, inhumane and irreversible”, EU Ambassador to Thailand Pirkka Tapiola urged Thais to keep the conversation about its abolition civil.
“It’s important to keep the discussion as civil as possible,” he said, adding that the death penalty is cruel and that there’s a possibility of executing the wrong person. Tapiola said capital punishment is not a deterrent, judging from how EU member states have lower crime rates than many countries with the death penalty.
Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, Director of the Cross Cultural Foundation NGO and an advocate for the end of capital punishment, said it’s not uncommon for some of the accused to be tortured or forced to confess by police, which he said made the reliability of the judicial process dubious.
Emilio de Miguel Calabia, Spanish ambassador to Thailand, said at the event that for many years, it seemed as if the death penalty would never be abolished in Spain when it was under the dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco.
De Miguel added that it is the state’s choice to keep or remove capital punishment.
“It’s a political decision,” de Miguel said.
Katia Chirizzi, deputy representative of the United Nations’ human rights office, called the execution this year a “setback” and a “very unfortunate and surprising development.”
She said at least 90 percent of Thai women on death row faced execution due to drug-related convictions.