Pubdate: Wed, 25 Apr 2001
Source: Bangkok Post (Thailand)
Copyright: The Post Publishing Public Co., Ltd. 2001
Author: Gerard Brett


On the morning of April 23, BBC national radio in Britain carried a 
short graphic report on the summary execution of five drug 
traffickers at Bang Kwang prison on April 18. The muffled sound of 
machine gun fire and the cackle of geese in the background brought 
home the horror I felt when I originally read this news item in the 
Bangkok Post (internet edition) at the weekend. Let me state the 
obvious about this barbaric act of state violence.

There is no credible evidence whatsoever to suggest that capital 
punishment, or indeed any lesser criminal sanction, has the slightest 
impact on crime reduction or deterrence. Khun Thaksin and his 
apologists need to look no further than the US for proof of this 
assertion as crime, and drug related crime, there has spiralled out 
of control-regardless of the deterrent effect of Old Sparky, lethal 
injection or life imprisonment without parole. The death penalty only 
satisfies the more reactionary elements in society.

The BBC reported the Thai government's justification of the execution 
on the basis of the current crime wave in Thailand and the threat 
posed to Thai youth by drugs. I can only say this is extremely poor 
judgment and may have very negative consequences in the long term for 
the Land of Smiles.

Western liberals are appalled by this act of barbarity and some will 
undoubtedly be disinclined to visit or return to Thailand as 
tourists. Official acknowledgement that Thailand is caught up in a 
crime wave will also influence tourists in choosing their next 
holiday destination. It is confirmation of what many tourists have 
long suspected. Ultimately this will impact on the amount of hard 
currency upon which the Thai economy is so dependent.

This in turn will contribute to the very circumstances, poverty and 
lack of opportunity, which are the real factors behind why people, 
especially young people, use drugs and head into crime. I suggest 
Khun Thaksin and his ministers would be better devising economic 
regeneration projects than brutal stunts such as public executions if 
he really has the interests of Thai youth at heart.

I can't help also but notice your reports about the carnage during 
the recent Thai New Year festivities. You report in excess of 700 
fatalities and countless thousands of injuries. Similar carnage 
occurred in Thailand over the celebration of the western New Year. 
The majority of the victims were young males. The most significant 
factor in all this carnage was alcohol, a legal drug.

It seems to me that there are striking similarities with the West in 
this respect. Politicians here rant about the evils of drugs 
regardless of and oblivious to the fact that alcohol presents a far 
more serious threat to the health and well being of a much larger 
proportion of the community.

Attend an emergency room in London or any major city in Britain on a 
Friday night and the majority of people seeking treatment will be in 
various degrees of intoxication. It is such a problem that hospitals 
in Britain have to deploy security guards to protect staff and 
patients. But regardless of the true harm of excessive alcohol misuse 
to our society, the politicians here address drugs as the greatest 
harm of all.

I am deeply disturbed by this turn of events in Thailand and, while I 
will return, it really won't be Amazing Thailand anymore.

Gerard Brett, London
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