Singapore and Thailand: Explaining Differences in Death Penalty Clemency
Forthcoming in Liu, J., Travers, M., & Chang, L. (2017) Comparative Criminology in Asia. New York: Springer
24 Pages Posted: 28 Jun 2016 Last revised: 15 Jul 2017
Date Written: June 24, 2016
Singapore and Thailand, two nations within the same political and geographical grouping (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations: ASEAN), have both utilised the death penalty in murder, drug trafficking and security cases over the past 40 years. The two states have executed prisoners frequently enough never to have been reclassified from ‘actively retentionist’ states to ‘abolitionist de facto’ states since 1975. However, despite these similarities in death penalty practice, one point of difference is particularly striking. For finalised capital cases (where prisoners have exhausted available judicial remedies), the proportion of death row prisoners granted clemency or pardon, rather than being executed, stands at around 1% for Singapore and over 90% for Thailand, during the 40-year period 1975-2014. Why this remarkable difference, with one jurisdiction seemingly viewing clemency as an extraordinary remedy only to be afforded to a prisoner in the rarest circumstances, while the other jurisdiction’s executive instead endorses clemency as the expected, routine outcome in death penalty cases?
This is an inductive comparative criminal justice study, based largely upon qualitative and quantitative data collected during my doctoral research from 2009 to 2013, updated to include Singaporean and Thai death penalty developments in 2014. Here, the aim is to employ theory and observations to explain why such a marked discrepancy in clemency practices exists, and to which structural or cultural features of Singaporean and Thai society it can be traced to.
Keywords: Clemency, pardon, Thailand, Singapore, death penalty, capital punishment
JEL Classification: K14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation