Capital punishment goes against Buddhist principles
July 16, 2014 00:00 By Pravit Rojanaphruk
The recent rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl on a Bangkok-bound train has given rise to calls for a mandatory death penalty for rapists.
This matter may seem quite straightforward, especially where parents and women are concerned, as they understandably want to see this horrendous crime to end.
However, the passion that has ignited this call for capital punishment needs to be better understood, particularly in a country claiming to be the Land of Buddhism.
Regardless of the state religion, how does executing a human make Thailand a more humane society that respects the right to life? Two wrongs do not make a right, and the loss of two lives – that of the murdered and the murderer – is anything but humane.
In fact, this angry call for the death sentence only goes to show that Thai society is largely trapped in a mentality of vengeance. That these so-called “good people” have no qualms in supporting a mandatory death sentence shows that many Thais still believe that as long as they’re on the side of the right, they can do what they want and justify it.
I am reminded of the time when Thaksin Shinawatra’s “war on drugs” won popular support, even though up to 2,500 were extra-judicially killed.
At the time, many praised Thaksin because they thought these “bad people” deserved to be killed.
More recently, there was the phenomenon of “good people” supporting the military coup, with no regard to the constitution and democratic principles. This is because the coup led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha had the “good intention” of getting rid of “bad politicians”.
As for a mandatory death penalty, otherwise devout Buddhists see nothing wrong in insisting that another person’s life, albeit a criminal, be deliberately taken.
They don’t see the irony in their act of denouncing the killing of another person – the girl in this case – on the one hand, and demanding that the rapist be executed. Shouldn’t they use the same principle in both cases and stand against killing, no matter how much they despise the criminal?
In a related case, those against the death penalty are now attacking former beauty queen Panadda Wongphudee – who has been leading the call for capital punishment – for her habit of wearing revealing clothes. These detractors claim that people like her beg to get raped because of the way they dress.
It is totally unfair to place any blame on women and put rape down to their choice of clothes.
There’s a parallel for this sort of mentality in a recent remark made by Election Commissioner Somchai Sritthiyakorn, who told this writer that if politicians were more flexible, there would not have been a coup on May 22. Apparently, coupmakers don’t need to be held responsible for their actions.
Last but not least, some promoters of the mandatory death penalty for rapists have been citing the United States as an example for maintaining capital punishment. Now, why Thais choose to follow some of the worst practices of otherwise democratic and civilised countries is beyond this writer’s comprehension.
Instead, Thais should learn from the best practices elsewhere and ask themselves how they can turn their society into a more humane one, where there is no place for the worst of inhumanity – be it rape or mandatory execution.