Why should the death penalty be abolished?

12 July 2016

By : Chamnan Chanruang
First published on Bangkok Business on Wednesday, 25th May 2016 


Every time violence breaks out such as assaulting a disabled man to death, raping, etc., it always accelerate the social trend to impose the death penalty on offenders always, as it is believed that they deserve the capital punishment and that if the capital punishment is effective, such offenses will not be committed. However, due to the international research, it clearly shows that the death penalty has no connection with the increase or decrease of the crime.


According to the latest report of Amnesty International concerning the capital punishment and execution in 2015 worldwide, it indicates that the number of death penalty is shockingly high, which is the highest number in 25 years. In addition to China without the official number, the three countries that have the highest execution rate are Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Nonetheless, according to the global trend, there are 140 or more than two third of the countries worldwide that have turned against the death penalty either in law or in practice. Those 102 countries have abolished the death penalty for all types of criminal offense.


For the ASEAN community comprising 10 countries, Cambodia and the Philippines have abolished the death penalty all types of criminal offense, while Laos, Myanmar and Brunei have abolished the death penalty in practice (the death penalty is still in place but has been suspended for 10 consecutive years). Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam still have and impose the death penalty.


Thailand Last year, there were 7 people who faced death penalty. According to the current data as of 31st March 2016, there are 420 death row inmates: 368 males and 52 women, 195 of which are punished narcotics cases and 225 pf which are punished for general cases. The last execution in Thailand took place in August 2009, and it has been almost seven years without execution. Should there be no execution for 10 consecutive years, the United Nations will regard Thailand as a country abolishing the death penalty in practice, which is evolutionary development in terms of human rights in Thailand.


Reasons for Abolishing Death Penalty


1) Execution is a violation of fundamental human rights - the rights to live, to which all human beings are entitled regardless of status, ethnicity, religion or origin and whether they are good or bad. Such rights cannot be taken away from the person.


2) All executions inflict brutal torture upon prisoner, even the toxic injection into the body.


3) The criminal justice process is at risk of making a wrong decision. No system can judge an individual fairly, consistently and without defect. The key is that the death penalty, once imposed, cannot be reverse, even though there is later investigation revealing that the executed person is innocent.


4) Most of the executed prisoners are the poor and the underprivileged, who cannot hire competent lawyers to educate and defend themselves. According to the research on the death penalty conducted by Sumonthip Jitsawang, it indicates that the social status of Thai death row inmates is relatively low. Most of them have elementary-school education and income not exceeding 10,000 baht. They became death row inmates due to the environments which had shaped them to commit a crime such as socialization, social learning, low self-control, including fearlessness of the death penalty while committing the offense. In other words, the death penalty cannot deter them from committing crimes, but they became afraid of the punishment after committing the offense.


5) Execution does not inhibit violent crimes or make society safer, but it also has a negative impact on society. The fact that the government has allowed executions indicates support for use of violence and promotion of violent cycle. Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General said, "no one can prove that the death penalty helps stop crimes." It can be seen from some obvious example when comparing 2 countries with similar characteristics in terms of the population, education and economy such as Singapore, which still has the death penalty and severe punishments and Hong Kong which has no capital punishment. The crime rate is almost the same. If the death penalty can actually stop crimes, the number of crime in Singapore has to be less than that in Hong Kong, doesn’t it?

So what do we do with offenders?


We should have new attitudes toward offenders. We should not think that they are culprits who deserve severe punishment but think that they are part of the social productivity like us, and the punishments must be for revenge but for remedies. The fact that they commit crimes means that something in our society is distorted. What we should do is not to get rid of them, but we should find the root of the problem and the dysfunctional cog to find solutions.


It is clear that what those people do is an offense. What the government must take an urgent action on is to bring offenders to receive the punishment according to the justice process. The justice process must be transparent, timely, precise and equal, and the offenders must not be at large. The fairer and timelier the justice process, the better the remedies for the victims and those damaged.


As for the calls for death penalty for those with criminal behavior, while the example story mentioned earlier has unfolded, everyone should have conscience and logic to reconsider this matter. Of course, everyone is furious. Some people might even be disgusted by what offenders have done to victims.


When we are furious about what they have done, we should not do the same thing. Otherwise, we might not be so different from them – criminals. The difference is that we do not kill the offenders by ourselves, but we assign the hangman that task to “kill” on our behalf.