More and more countries are rejecting the death penalty, which is a global trend. However, according to a report from the South China Morning Post (SCMP), certain countries are actually going against this trend, including Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Amnesty International reports that the number of deaths via execution is at its lowest in the last ten years. In 2018, the number was at 690, whereas the year before it had been at 993.
Amongst the ASEAN nations, seven out of the 10 member-countries did not have any executions in 2018, with the exception of Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam which had more.
The ASEAN nation with the highest number of executions is Vietnam, which saw 85 individuals executed in 2018. There are also currently over 600 convicts on death row.
Next is Singapore, with 13 executions last year—the highest number in a year since 2003.
Thailand, on the other hand, had its first execution since 2009.
Amnesty International’s 2018 death penalty report also says that while the man executed in Thailand had been a murderer, most of the death sentences meted out in Singapore had been for drug offenses. For Vietnam, individuals were executed for murder, drug crimes, and national security violations.
The report says that at the end of 2018 “106 countries had abolished the death penalty in law for all crimes and 142 countries had abolished the death penalty in law or practice.”
Nevertheless, Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said, “The positive news of 2018 has been marred by a small number of states who are shamefully determined to buck the trend. Japan, Singapore, and South Sudan reported the highest levels of executions in years, and Thailand resumed executions after almost a decade; but these countries now form a dwindling minority. To all the countries that still resort to the death penalty, I challenge you to act boldly and put a stop to this abhorrent punishment now.”
The situation in Singapore
Singaporean activist Kirsten Han responded to Amnesty International’s 2018 death penalty report, saying that the trend worldwide of decreasing executions made it even “more disappointing” that Vietnam, Singapore, and Thailand were “still clinging on to this archaic, cruel punishment,” SCMP reports.
She said, “In 2018 we have seen more executions in Singapore in a long time, even though there is a lack of evidence that it’s more effective at deterring crime than any other punishment.”
For Michelle Yesudas, a legal adviser and human rights activist, it has been dismaying that there are countries that take “a hardline stance on retribution and executions”.
She said, “As Singapore chalks up increased executions, Brunei, an abolitionist country in practice for more than 20 years has now included stoning to death as punishment and the Philippines is considering the reinstatement of the death penalty. These moves ride on a wave of anti-crime rhetoric and the false idea that the death penalty is a deterrent and these narratives must be countered.”
Prabu Pathmanathan, a Malaysian convicted of drug trafficking, was executed in Singapore last October in spite of appeals from the Mahathir government. It was an execution that human rights groups widely protested.
Two years previous to his execution, Kho Jabing, also a Malaysian national, was executed for the death of a construction worker. It was also in 2016 that Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam called out activists for “romanticising individuals involved in the drug trade”. Mr Shanmugam also said that capital punishment would continue to be part of the country’s comprehensive anti-drug framework.
Last month, another Malaysian, Micheal Anak Garing, was also executed in Singapore.
Around the world, China still has the biggest number of executions. The actual figure is unknown as it is deemed to be a state secret, though the human rights watchdog believes that the number is in the thousands, according to the report.
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