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SRT governor sacked

Agencies oppose capital punishment amid public clamour seeking death for rape-murder convicts

THE GOVERNOR of the State Railway of Thailand, Prapat Chong-sanguan, was sacked yesterday in the wake of a shocking rape-and-murder of a 13-year-old on a Bangkok-bound train early on Sunday.

The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) announced his dismissal yesterday evening.

During the past several days, Prapat has been subjected to widespread public criticism not just because of his failure to prevent the horrific rape and killing but also because of his reaction to such crimes.

To date, Prapat has not offered any public apology to the victim's family. He initially tried to say that the attacker was an employee of a subcontractor, something that was exposed as untrue with clear evidence. Prapat also claimed that no serious crime had ever happened on a train before this case, which was denounced by a woman who was raped on a train 13 years ago.

Reacting to the calls for his resignation, Prapat also firmly insisted that he would not resign, reacting with anger against those who pressed for it.

Asked on Wednesday if he would allow his daughter to book a train berth, Prapat said, "I think no".

Meanwhile, despite strong public condemnation of sexual assaults, several agencies have resisted the growing call to put all rapists to death.

"It depends on the facts and details in each case," Charnchao Chaiyanukij, acting permanent secretary of the Justice Ministry, said yesterday.

People have been signing a petition demanding that all convicted rapists be executed in the wake of the recent shocking sexual assault on a teenage train passenger, who was murdered after the attack.

On Sunday, Wanchai Saengkhao, a new employee of the State Railway of Thailand, allegedly raped and killed the 13-year-old girl on the train he worked on, then threw her body out of the moving train, according to a police investigation.

Many people believe that capital punishment serves as a deterrent, but Charnchao said Thailand's legal sanctions were already as stiff as in other countries.

"Sexual offences range from sexual harassment, to rape, to rape with physical assault and to rape with murder. And the maximum punishment here is the death penalty," he said.

The strongest sentence would be handed down when there is solid evidence. "This means members of the public can help. If they get any information related to any case, please give it to the authorities."

Caspar Peek, the representative of the United Nations Population Fund for Thailand, said the UN opposed the use of capital punishment because it goes against human rights - particularly the right to life.

National Human Rights Commissioner Visa Benjamano said the law would run its course and society should focus on promoting a non-violent culture.

"We must campaign against the use of violence," she said.

Wanchai has been put in solitary confinement at Prachuap Khiri Khan Prison, pending the investigation into his alleged crimes.

A warden said on condition of anonymity that inmates there felt strong revulsion towards rapists and Wanchai would be at risk of being attacked had he not been separated from them.

No relatives have requested bail for him. His father, Suwat, just showed up to provide information at Noppawong Police Station.

Suwat reportedly told police that his son was usually quiet and obsessed with pornography.

"He loves watching porn. During the past week, he came home with more than 10 different women," a police source said.

One of Wanchai's co-workers also told police that some train crew knew about half of his plot to attack his victim.

"While drinking beer together during our work shift, he told us that this girl had caught his eye when she boarded the train in Surat Thani, and he planned to violate her sexually," he said.

Identified only as "Neung", the 19-year-old state witness has given useful information to police.

"After I noticed that the girl was missing, I asked him [Wanchai] about her and he told me that he had already thrown her off the train," Neung was quoted as saying.

Police have charged Wanchai with rape, murder, theft and drug abuse.

According to the investigation, Wanchai also stole the girl's mobile phone and tablet. He was allegedly an abuser of methamphetamines.

The girl's mother said she hoped Wanchai would apologise to her daughter before she is cremated on Sunday.




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