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Religious leaders unite against death penalty

Religious leaders in Thailand deplore the death penalty

Campaigners against the death penaty Campaigners against the death penaty
  • ucanews.com reporter, Bangkok
  • Thailand
  • October 10, 2011
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Speaking on World Day Against the Death Penalty today, leading Thai Buddhists and members of other religions have underlined their opposition to capital punishment.

“No killing is our foremost teaching,” said Reverend Paisarn Visalo. The Buddhist monk and peace activist added that in the Buddhist scriptures, there are many stories which emphasize that killing is wrong, regardless of the reason.

He also added that the death penalty has resulted in the execution of innocent people. “In the US, 113 people on death row have been released since 1976 after being found innocent,” he said. "The modern justice system still has holes.”

His views were echoed by Sarawut Sriwannayod, chairman of the Muslim Council of Thailand.  “According to Islam, life is precious and holy and taking away life is very serious,” he said.  "For crimes of murder, Islam  has a system in which the family of the victim can forgive the criminal and be compensated in other ways, such as property."

Bishop Joseph Phibul Visitnonthachai of Nakhon Sawan, executive director of the Catholic office for emergency relief and refugees, also took the opportunity to criticize the death penalty.  He described it as “inhuman, cruel, degrading and a violation of the right to life," adding that "it is also against international human rights standards.”

"Many countries that have abolished the death penalty did not see any decrease in their crime rates," he said. "This shows it is not instrumental in preventing crime. What is needed is a campaign to change the ‘eye for an eye’ attitude.”

The bishop went on to make it clear that people who commit crimes must still be subject to the law, but execution should not be an option for punishment. He called for more creative ways  of rehabilitating criminals, such as providing an option for them to compensate their victims.

While many countries have abolished the death penalty in recent years, Thailand is one of the 58 that still actively enforce it. Figures released in March showed 759 people on death row, 353 of them in drug-related cases. Since 1935, 325 have been executed.

The ministry of justice launched its second human rights plan in 2009, pledging abolition of the penalty by 2013. However, social activists and NGOs say they are still waiting for the newly elected government to make a statement on the issue.
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