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Anti-execution lobby forges alliance

Leading opponents of the death penalty seek greater strength in numbers

Anti-execution lobby forges alliance
Campaigners against the death penalty meet to forge an alliance
Panithan Kitsakul, Bangkok

February 11, 2011

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Leading activists from several NGOs have established an informal alliance to intensify a campaign against the death penalty in Thailand. Activists from the Jesuit Foundation, Amnesty International Thailand and the Union for Civil Liberty, say their campaign will focus on two fronts – lobbying politicians and educating the public. Abolition of the death penalty is part of the Second National Human Rights Action Plan (2009-2013) approved by the Thai Cabinet in October 2009, they noted. “In Thailand there are very few organizations working to abolish capital punishment, therefore there is a need for cooperation with each other to make a campaign stronger and hopefully successful,” said Parinya Boonridrerthaikul, director of Amnesty International Thailand. She said Amnesty will focus on educating students and the general public, while the Union for Civil Liberty, a Thai human rights organization, will lobby state institutions. The Jesuit Foundation, will work more closely with prisoners, especially those on death row. “We can supplement and support each other,” Parinya asserted. Some 90 percent of people on death row have been convicted in drug related cases, according to Wilaiwan Pokthavi of the Jesuit Foundation. The death penalty does not solve the root causes of drug offences, she said, pointing to weaknesses in the legal and justice system that often makes poor and lowly educated people scapegoats. Somsri Hannanuntasuk, former chairperson of Amnesty International Thailand, agreed. She accused police of often working with drug dealers for mutual benefit. Danthong Breen of the Union for Civil Liberty said his organization will have its work cut out to convince people to oppose capital punishment. He pointed to the fact that many Buddhist religious leaders surprisingly support the death penalty. “we have to work harder with progressive monks who support abolition and help them spread this message in society,” he said. The last executions in Thailand were in August 2009 after a six-year hiatus. Related report Thai Catholics join drive to scrap death penalty TH13250.1640
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