Joint Open Letter to Prime Minister of Thailand on Abolition of the Death Penalty

Press release

Dear Madame Prime Minister,

On the eve of the 10th World Day Against the Death Penalty, the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) write to you to urge the Government of Thailand to take immediate steps to abolish the death penalty, an irrevocable, inhuman, cruel and degrading punishment that does not make society safer.

Thailand has not carried out any execution since August 2009 when two convicted drug traffickers were executed by lethal injection. Before that, there were no executions between 2003 and August 2009. Thailand voted against the first two United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) moratorium resolutions, but changed its position on the third resolution in 2010 by abstaining. Thailand’s second National Human Rights Action Plan (2009-2013) includes the review of laws which permit capital punishment and the replacement of capital punishment with life imprisonment as indicators of success. In August 2012, Thailand abolished the death penalty for offenders under 18 years of age and reduced life imprisonment for minors to 50 years. On 16 August 2012, a royal pardon was announced whereby all prisoners who have been sentenced to death and whose cases have reached a final verdict would have their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment.

The World Coalition and FIDH hope that these positive steps indicate a growing political will on the part of the Government of Thailand to move progressively and expeditiously towards abolition.

We are concerned, however, that Thai courts continue to hand down new death sentences every year, including for drug-related offenses, in contravention to the recommendation of the UN Human Rights Committee in 2005. Thailand is a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which requires States that still retain the death penalty to restrict its use to only the “most serious crimes”, which drug-related offenses are not. We are therefore disturbed by reports that the Deputy Prime Minister recently publicly supported an amendment to the Narcotics Act to shorten the appeals process for drug offenders sentenced to death and expedite their executions. We are also appalled by the inhuman practice of permanently shackling male death row prisoners, despite a landmark ruling in 2009 by the Administrative Court which found shackling to be unlawful under both domestic and international law.

We further regret that Thailand did not accept the ten recommendations on abolition or moratorium it received from UN Member States at the Universal Periodic Review in October 2011, and urge Thailand to reconsider its position on these important recommendations.

The global trend towards abolition is strong and unmistakable. Two of Thailand’s fellow ASEAN Member States, Cambodia and the Philippines, have abolished the death penalty while no executions have been reported in Burma and Laos in the last decade. According to the United Nations, approximately 150 countries have abolished the death penalty or introduced a moratorium, either in law or in practice. Many countries have abolished the death penalty when public opinion was still in favour of it, and this demonstrates that political courage is needed to steer societies towards a more compassionate and less violent future, and to ensure the full respect for the right to life, as guaranteed by the ICCPR.

The World Coalition and FIDH respectfully call on Thailand to:

  • vote in favour of the 2012 UNGA resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, and immediately introduce a moratorium on executions;
  • take prompt and effective measures, including through legislative and administrative reforms, to review all laws permitting the imposition of the death penalty, with a view to abolishing it in law at the earliest instance;
  • and immediately instruct all prison authorities to end the practice of permanent shackling of male death row prisoners, and effectively monitor their compliance.

Thank you for your serious consideration of our recommendations and we look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely yours,

Souhayr Belhassen
FIDH President

Florence Bellivier
WCADP President

Copied to:

H.E. Pracha Promnok
Minister of Justice
22nd Floor Software Park Building
Chaeng Wattana Road
Pakkred, Nonthaburi 11120, Thailand
Fax: +66 2 650 9340 / 2 502 6734 / 2 502 6884
E-mail: ,

H.E. Surapong Tovichakchaikul
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand
443 Sri Ayudhya Road
Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Fax: +66 2 643 5320 / 2 643 5314 / 2 643 5272

Jullasingha Wasantasingha
Attorney General
Office of the Attorney General
Lukmuang Building, Nahuppei Road
Prabraromrachawang, Pranakorn
Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Fax: +66 2 224 0162 / 1448 / 221 0858

H.E. Norachit Sinhaseni
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of Thailand to the United Nations
351 East 52nd Street
New York, N.Y. 10022, USA
Fax: +1 212 688 3029

Professor Amara Pongsapich
Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand
120 Chaengwattana Road, Laksi District
Bangkok 10210, Thailand
Fax. +66 2 141 3900

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