Shackles are seen around the ankles of prisoners at the back of a court in Thailand in July 2015. A man convicted of a brutal murder in Trang has been executed in Bangkok, the first use of the death penalty for nearly a decade. Photo: AFP/ Jerome Taylor

Thailand’s government carried out its first execution since 2009 on Monday, according to the Department of Corrections in Bangkok, killing a 26-year-old convicted murderer by lethal injection.

Theerasak Longji was killed, six years after being found guilty of murder in southern Trang province. Theerasak was convicted of the brutal killing of a 17-year-old boy, who he stabbed 24 times in a frenzied attack before taking the boy’s mobile phone and money.

Thailand’s Corrections Department said 325 convicts have been executed since 1935, the majority by firing squad.

“We still have the death sentence, we have not cancelled it yet,” Tawatchai Thaikaew, the deputy permanent secretary at the Justice Ministry, told AFP, adding that the execution was carried out “according to the law.”

While Thailand has had the death penalty for centuries, there have been long periods when no executions have been carried out, often related to changes in government or the many coups staged by the country’s dominant military. The methods of judicial state killings have also changed over the years.

From 1805 – when the country was known as Siam and was an absolute monarchy – and up until 1932 when Thailand transitioned to a constitutional monarchy, there were 21 different forms of capital punishment under a decree known as the Law of the Three Seals. Some of these punishments were extremely cruel – for example, those convicted of treason would be wrapped in oil-soaked cloth and set on fire.

Execution methods have changed over the years. In 1938, for example, those sentenced to death were shot using a single automatic rifle. In later years, convicts would be handcuffed to a cross and shot by an official executioner, once the supervisor gave the order. 

Lethal injection

Death by gunshot ended on December 11, 2002, and between then and 2009 another six inmates were executed by lethal injection, according to the Corrections Department.

Most of those executed in Thailand have been convicted of either murder of serious drug offenses. 

The last execution by shooting in Thailand was on December 11, 2002. The executioner was named Chavoret Jaruboon and there is a remarkable film about his life, aptly named The Last Executioner, and it was very popular when it was released. Chavoret, who has since died, executed 55 men and women, mostly in Bang Kwang Maximum Security Prison, otherwise known as the “Bangkok Hilton.”

Human rights groups condemned the resumption of the death penalty, which is frequently handed down by Thai courts for serious crimes. “This is a deplorable violation of the right to life,” Amnesty International told AFP, accusing Thailand of “reneging” on commitments to move towards the abolition of the death penalty.