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Rights groups condemn Thai executions

Thailand executions
Wednesday's executions were designed to show the government was taking a tough line on crime  

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'Convincing deterrent'

'Like animals'

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Local and international human rights groups have condemned Wednesday's execution by firing squad of five convicts in the Thai capital, Bangkok.

All but one of the men were convicted drug traffickers. The fifth was found guilty of masterminding a murder.

Referring to the recently installed government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra UK-based Amnesty International said it was "outrageous for the new government to flaunt its tough anti-drugs stance by executing people."

"The death penalty provides no solution to growing crime rates," it said in a statement adding the government's action showed a "disturbing disregard for human life".

Amnesty said there was no evidence the death penalty acted as a more effective deterrent than other punishments.

Thailand's Union for Civil Liberty also condemned as "legalized violence" which demonstrated the government's "lack of confidence in solving this problem".

'Convincing deterrent'

Wednesday marked the first time the Thai Corrections Department had allowed media into the capital's Bang Kwang prison to witness an execution.

Thai Thaksin
PM Thaksin (L) said the men deserved to die  

Of the five that were put to death, two were non-Thai nationals: Lee Yuan-kuang, from Hong Kong, and Chu Chin-kuay, who is Taiwanese.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra defended the executions saying he believed capital punishment was a convincing deterrent against drug trafficking.

He said the condemned men had destroyed the futures of many Thai young people and deserved to die.

"Even in the United States, where people enjoy the most rights and freedom, carries out executions every now and then," the Bangkok Post newspaper quoted Thaksin as saying.

'Like animals'

A number of Thai politicians have also spoken out against the executions.

Kraisak Choonhavan, chairman of the Senate foreign affairs committee told The Nation newspaper he disagreed with the killings.

"I suggest the government conduct a referendum to sound out what people think, to see if such a highly-publicized execution, which treats human beings like animals, is the right thing to do," he said.

"This [the execution] might strike a chord with a number of people," another senator, Bangkok representative Chirmsak Pinthong told The Nation.

"But the government has to consider if execution is the right way to solve the problem. The Corrections Department has a duty to turn inmates into better people-not to kill them for what they've done wrong," he said.

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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