Rights dept presses for end of death penalty-The Nation

July 21, 2012


Pravit Rojanaphruk

The Nation: July 19, 2012



The Rights and Liberties Protection Department will continue to pressure the government and society in the hope of forging a national consensus for the abolition of capital punishment.

“We shall propose it and offer alternatives to the government,” Pithaya Jimawat, director general of the department, which is under the Justice Ministry, said yesterday.

While he gave no time frame, he pointed out that Thailand remained one of the few countries in the world still sentencing convicts to death.

More than 140 of the world’s 198 states have abandoned executions, which are widely regarded as inhumane.

“We must look at the sentiment of the world. More than 140 countries have done away with the death penalty but we still have it.”

Pithaya and the department welcomed New York-based Japanese photographer Toshi Kazuma, who has spent the better part of the past two decades recording on film youths on death row in such places as the United States and Taiwan.

Kazuma, a passionate advocate of the demise of the death penalty, urged Thai society to stop thinking that the issue is something abstract and far removed from daily concerns.

Everyone in a society that allows the death penalty to continue is in one way or another responsible for the executions, which are cruel and inhumane and do not really prevent crimes, he said.

“We are the ones who are doing the killing. The executors are just doing it on our behalf,” said Kazuma, 54, who displayed large black-and-white photos of youths on death row.

Thais should go straight to the execution chamber and observe killings being carried out to become empathetic and understand how they are directly related to the continued existence of the death penalty.

“Executions never bring happiness,” Kazuma told a forum, which included senior officials from the Corrections Department. Even the families of crime victims, after a few years pass, almost without fail do not want to see the culprit executed as they do not want to live with anger and hatred. “Revenge is not the answer.”

Many executioners he met in various countries asked him to tell the world that they wish they did not have to put anyone to death. Kazuma, who is seeking a permit to take photos of the execution chamber and young death-row inmates in Thailand, said society would be better off concentrating on crime prevention and understanding how crimes happen to begin with.

Many of the young prisoners on death row that he met and filmed were poor people from broken families, he said.

In the US, some 20 prisoners are executed each year, he said. In China, the number ranges from 5,000 to 10,000, with many shot instead of being given a lethal injection so that their organs can be removed for transplants. In Japan, the Justice Ministry has refused access to death-row inmates so that he can photograph them.

In the end, a society that supports the death penalty is inevitably less humane, he said.

“What kind of society do you want to have? If we rely on the death penalty, society will become worse,” warned Kazuma.

He takes pictures in large format and in black and white instead of colour so people can use their imagination and engage more with the portraits he took.


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