Not that I have a soft spot for prisoners, but can you imagine the shock for any person when at 4:00PM you are told you will die at 6:00PM? No previous announcement of policy changes, no warning, just “In two hours you are going to die!“
On Monday, the first prisoner executions in six years were carried out at Bang Khwang jail. This is the story of the reluctant officials assigned the task
- Writer: Piyaporn Wongruang
Published: 30/08/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News
At about 1.30pm on Monday, the heart of the commander of Bang Khwang central prison grew heavy when a message was delivered to him by the Corrections Department.
It was an order from the Prime Minister’s Office, requesting the prison proceed with the execution of two prisoners, who at that time were taking in the afternoon air outside their prison dormitory.
After reading the order, Prasert Yusuphap sat in front of an image of the Lord Buddha in his office and started to pray and meditate. ”I’m a Buddhist and I don’t want to order the killing of anyone,” said Mr Prasert.
He and 30 subordinates had to carry out one of the toughest tasks of a corrections official _ taking lives in the name of justice, a grisly duty spelled out in the Corrections Act.
- Also today, read our editorial: New ‘moratorium’ needed on executions
Having been in charge of the prison for eight months, it was the first time Mr Prasert had to oversee executions. The last executions in Thailand were carried out in late 2003 when four prisoners were killed by lethal injection.
Mr Prasert realised that the death order could possibly lead to chaos in the prison, where inmates serving heavy sentences are often in a fragile state of mind, so he kept the news quiet for a few hours until all prisoners were inside their cells.
At Bang Khwang, 743 inmates out of the the total prison population of 4,163 are facing the death penalty. But this more often than not does not end in execution as they still have legal recourse through the supreme and appeals courts. A total of 112 have had their cases finalised by the courts. Of those, 35 have lodged a petition for an individual Royal Pardon while the remainder are in the process of doing so.
Bundit Jaroenwanit, 45, and Jirawat Poompreuk, 52, two convicted drug criminals according to prison authorities, were not granted pardons and so the execution order came from the Prime Minister’s Office.
At about 4pm Mr Prasert called his men to tell them about the executions. About 15 were assigned to take care of the last-minute business of the two prisoners and the rest were to prepare the execution process.
The toughest job was asking three men to conduct the lethal injections. No one wanted to perform the job, Mr Prasert said.
Unlike execution by shooting, which was replaced by lethal injection in 2003, stopped in late 2001, Mr Prasert said, there is a ”close-up” moment between the executioner and the prisoner when the drugs are injected into the body. He said as there were no volunteers.
Three guards who normally have routine chores such as watching over prisoners or providing occupational training were given the task.
”They don’t want to do this, but someone must. It’s our duty and we must perform it,” said Mr Prasert.
The three guards headed to the prison’s execution room to prepare the injections. Mr Prasert then informed the registration unit to identify the two men to be executed, who were then removed from their cells.
The pair were taken to the Phak Jai Sala (rest pavilion), to be informed about the death order. They signed forms to accept the decision and conducted the business of condemned men, ranging from writing wills to calling loved ones.
When it reached 6 pm, the pair were taken to the execution chamber, where they were given a chance to listen to chanting by a monk, and their last meal.
One hour later they were brought to the actual execution room where first they were injected with sodium thiopental, a barbituate which makes them unconscious, then pancuronium bromide, a muscle relaxant.
The last drug, potassium chloride, stops the heart beating.
”They [the executioners] asked for forgiveness from the two, and after they finished the task I advised them to do merit-making,” said Mr Prasert, who walked back to his office to again pray for forgiveness in front of the Buddha image.
Lethal injection is regarded as one of the most humane methods of execution, but some human rights advocates, including the Amnesty International, have decried the practice of execution whatever the means used.
Mr Prasert said that personally he did not agree with prisoner executions. He said that there could be flaws in the justice system which could end up with the wrong person being executed.
He said prisoners in Bang Khwang generally suffer enough from long-term sentences, some for life, and those showing remorse should be forgiven.
According to Nathee Chitsawang, the Corrections Department’s chief, the department has not proposed any changes to the death penalty as the subject is still open to debate.
He said the department is an implementation body and had to follow directives. It has tried to take care of the officers involved in execution as best it can by providing training as well as extra allowances.
|Two Prisoners Executed in Thailand|
|Written by Richard Barrow|
|Tuesday, 25 August 2009|
Two drug traffickers on death row at Bang Kwang Prison were executed by lethal injections this evening in Thailand. They were Bundit Charoenwanich, 45, and Jirawat Phumpruek, 52. Both were arrested on March 29, 2001 for having 114,219 methamphetamine tablets in their possession. Convicted of drug trafficking, they were given the capital punishment. Although the death sentence is often commuted to life imprisonment, the Director of the Department of Corrections received a directive from the Prime Ministers office for this sentence to be carried out.
According to Thai newspapers, the execution happened this evening at 5.30 p.m. at Bang Kwang Prison. No-one knew it was going to happen as it was kept a secret from everyone. Lockdown was at 3 p.m. as normal. Then the two prisoners were taken out of their cells on Death Row to be prepared for the execution. This preparation took one hour. They were allowed one call to relatives but they were only given one minute to talk. One of the prisoners rang his home but there was no answer. His mother had just been to visit him that afternoon and probably hadn’t reached home. The prisoner then asked for a favour to call her mobile phone which was granted. Finally he was able to get through to her to let her know that he was about to be executed. The other prisoner spoke briefly to his wife and young son.
The prisoners were also instructed to write a will. The records of the prisoners were brought to the prison from the police station. Their fingerprints were then checked to make sure they had the right prisoner. The execution order from the Prime Minister’s office was then read out to them. They were then given flowers and incense sticks and given an opportunity to say a prayer. They faced towards Wat Bang Praek which is next door and where the cremation will take place. There is a small death door in the wall here. Before the execution, they were offered a last meal. This was a curry and fried asparagus. They were also given an apple and a packet of cigarettes. Obviously they weren’t very hungry. They were then led into the execution chamber where they were given a final blessing and sermon by a monk.
The governor of Nonthaburi and other government officials attended the execution together with reporters. The relatives weren’t present but they will go the prison in the morning to take part in religious rites for the prisoners. The last execution by machine gun was carried out on 11th December 2002. This was then changed to lethal injection. The first and last time this was carried out was 12th December 2003 when four prisoners were executed. This is now the second occasion that lethal injection was used. According to the Department of Corrections, a prisoner is injected with three kinds of drugs consisting of sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride. The first drug is a barbiturate which makes the prisoner unconscious. The second one is a muscle relaxant which can paralyze the entire muscle and stop breathing. The last one stops the heart and causes cardiac arrest.
This is a sad day for Thailand. I am sorry but I don’t believe in the death penalty and I certainly don’t believe in the lethal injection as the method.
|Last Updated ( Tuesday, 25 August 2009 )|