UCAN REPORT- The Thai Church has joined Amnesty International and other activists in condemning the resumption of executions in the country after a six-year hiatus.
“We campaign against suicide because life is precious and sacred. Yet, we still have the death penalty,” Vilaiwan Phokthavi, head of the Jesuits’ ministry for foreign prisoners, said.
She will join other activists on Sunday Oct. 10 in observing the World Day Against the Death Penalty.
In 2009, Thailand executed two drug traffickers by lethal injection, the first to be killed since 2003. Vilaiwan says that this has caused fear among prisoners on death row.
“Thai law allows the death penalty but most prisoners on death row remain in prison indefinitely.”
Vilaiwan said that Thai courts consider only the offense and not the circumstances behind the crime.
“Some people dealt drugs because they are poor or were forced,” she said.
Redemptorist Bishop Banchong Chaiyara of Ubon Ratchathani said the death penalty was against Catholic teaching.
“Thai Church is against capital punishment and considers death penalty a violation of life. The law does not have the right to take life. Life imprisonment is sufficient,” said Bishop Banchong, the president of the Thai bishops’ Commission for Social Development and chairperson of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace.
Amnesty International Thailand director Parinya Boonridrerthaikul supports the Church views.
“Death penalty is cruel and inhuman. Many governments justify it by claiming it deters crime. But there is no evidence that it does.”
The death penalty is often used against poor, ethnic and religious minorities Parinya added. “It is often imposed arbitrarily or for repression.”
Execution is also irrevocable if the accused is later proven innocent.
“It is a symptom of the culture of violence and should be abolished,” she said.
More than two-thirds of the world’s countries have abolished the death penalty.
While 58 countries keep it on the statute books, most do not implement it. In 2009, 18 countries executed 714 people. More were in Asia than the rest of the world combined.
While the vast majority of executions were carried out in China, at least 26 executions occurred in Bangladesh, Japan, North Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. About 819 death sentences have been passed in Asian countries.