Executioner of Bangkwang hangs up his gun


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TheeBadOne
October 24, 2003, 03:30 AM
He has a calm and untroubled look but Bangkwang jail's chief executioner has been shooting people for the past 18 years. Alex Spillius reports from Bangkok


Chaowalate Jarubun will never forget the first time he killed a man.

"I was very nervous inside, but outside I was calm," he remembers.

He had no idea then, in November 1984, that he would continue shooting people dead for 18 years.

He has executed 55 prisoners at Thailand's maximum security Bangkwang jail. He used an automatic rifle, usually discharging eight to 10 rounds from a full magazine into the condemned person. He aimed at the heart.

"People may think it too much, but this is how we helped prisoners die more quickly," he said. Another officer was on standby in case his weapon failed or the job was not done. He was never needed.

Other executioners came and went, pleading to be relieved of the duty or leaving the prison service. Mr Chaowalate, who was assigned to the execution team after he had been a prison officer for 11 years, saw it as his responsibility to continue.

When he did raise the possibility of stopping, his superiors asked him to carry on. He was too good at the job and at coping with the stress.

But, to his relief, Thailand this week officially switched to death by lethal injection, and a new boss decided that the veteran executioner had taken enough lives.

"Thailand is following a global trend," said Mr Chaowalate, 55, who performed his final killing last December. "There are concerns about human rights with firing squads but injection isn't guaranteed to work quickly. If the prisoner is tense there can be problems with the blood vessels and they have to cut into the arm again. Execution is inhumane, full stop."

He has a calm, considerate and untroubled look. He coped with the strain, he said, partly because the executions came irregularly - the rest of the time he performed normal functions - and because he kept reminding himself that he was fulfilling a lawful duty and that the doomed were paying debts to a society they had wronged.

"I remember them all," he said of his victims. "Each one was a loss but the people they wronged had also lost." Many of the condemned were murderers, but he thinks some did not deserve to die, like the women and the minor drug dealers.

He depended on Thailand's religion, Buddhism, in which the bad karma of killing can be balanced by the good karma of prayer and making merit.

"Afterwards, I would go to the temple to make merit for the dead, to be sure there was nothing between his spirit and me. Of course it was stressful. It used to trouble my mind, but I was OK," he said. He is happily married with three children.

He was given only a few hours' notice of each execution and would not look at the prisoner's files until afterwards. "You don't want to know the man you are about to shoot has got four kids and a poor wife."

He became expert at composing prisoners as they entered the death ground, a bare concrete room. "You had to see what they needed. They were all frightened, but some didn't want to talk. Others I had to stop panicking.

"I patted them on the shoulder and said, 'Be calm, these are the last minutes of your life, you better think if you have left out anything out of your will or your last letter to your family'.

"Some screamed they were innocent. You have to remind them about karma, that they are paying their debts."

After Buddhist monks read the last rites, the prisoners were tied to a pole. A lotus flower and three incense sticks were put in their hands to ease the spirit's journey, then they were blindfolded and shot.

With 30 years in the service, Mr Chaowalate now regularly gives lectures at schools and colleges.

"I want to tell our children how to behave," he said. "I like to tell them the right way to live."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2003/10/24/wbang24.xml&sSheet=/news/2003/10/24/ixworld.html
~~~~~~~~~~~

Things are quite a bit different on the other side of the pond! :what:

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C.R.Sam
October 24, 2003, 03:38 AM
"I want to tell our children how to behave," he said. "I like to tell them the right way to live." Having the executioner give the talk...
I would imagine at least some of the kiddies pay real close attention.

Sam

280PLUS
October 24, 2003, 08:10 AM
you bet your butt they are,,,

one thing i learned very well overseas,,,

there aint NO country better to live in than the good ol' US of A !!

when we got back, me and my buddies went down to the end of the pier and kissed the ground. no lie,,,

m

rock jock
October 24, 2003, 01:35 PM
IMO, having the executioner also play the role of the comforter is a very great mistake indeed. Hard on the condemned, harder on the executioner. He should show up, do his job, and leave.

Personally, I like the Old Testament style of execution, where the netire community participated. It served two purposes: 1. it signified that since the crime in question was ultimately against society that society as a whole should administer the punishment, and 2. it was a sobering reminder to the crowd who watched and participated that they should walk the straight and narrow lest they be on the receiving end.

keederdag
October 24, 2003, 02:35 PM
wow 55 people; I think that may be a job that only a person with seriouse religion, or a total lack of empathy could do. That's just shocking. Especially the part about people executed for "minor drug offenses":eek:

Jim March
October 24, 2003, 02:43 PM
I just got finished reading Stephen King's "The Green Mile" about an American "death row" of 1932. The statements made by the (fictional) executioners to keep the condemned party's panic down are extremely similar to the real-life examples above...King clearly did some homework!

Redlg155
October 24, 2003, 03:33 PM
Yikes..I'm glad I work in U.S. Prison system. I don't think I could have stomached the job if I were still in Thailand.

But then if we had that same system here you could be there would be a definite decrease in the amount of capital crimes commited.

Good Shooting
Red

DMK
October 24, 2003, 03:38 PM
Boy, tough job. That's got to be hard on the soul.

Hutch
October 24, 2003, 03:44 PM
Icky-poo!

How he maintained his sanity is beyond me. Maybe he didn't. One things for sure, I'd NEVER read the files on the guys, if I were the executioner.

Bill Hook
October 24, 2003, 03:45 PM
http://search.csmonitor.com/durable/2001/05/11/fp6s1-csm.shtml


http://www.correct.go.th/death.htm

Bill Hook
October 24, 2003, 03:47 PM
The whole country went for 8 years w/o an execution shortly after he got the job.

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/images/executioner.gif



http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/EJ11Ae08.html


The executioner's last song
By Steve Sandford

BANGKOK - With a body count of 55 kills, a number matching his age, Chaovarej Jaruboon belies the stereotypical image of a cold, hardened executioner. Indeed, the affable, soft-spoken prison guard could easily have been mistaken for a lounge entertainer, as he leaned back in his office chair with his acoustic guitar, and twangs a few bars of "Jailhouse Rock".

"I love all kinds of music," he said with a wide grin, listing a who's who of '50s and '60s greats, "Andy Williams, Paul Anka, Cliff Richards, Elvis Presley."

It's hard to imagine he's Thailand's best-known trigger man, with so much blood on his hands. But then, Chaovarej sees himself as just doing his duty at the very end of his country's often slow and much-maligned legal process.

THE MECHANICS OF DEATH

Thailand chose death by lethal injection after a research team's visit to a Texas correctional center several years ago. The procedure begins as three executioners each press a separate button to release a combination of three drugs into the condemned person who is strapped to a table. Only one of the three people will actually be carrying out the real execution, while the intravenous tubes from the others will empty into a hidden container. A green light will indicate that the prisoner has been injected with the sleeping drug, a yellow light will signify the injection of a muscle relaxant and a red light will signify the heart-stopping drug has been released, entering the condemned person. After six minutes, a doctor will verify that the prisoner is dead. After the execution, the body will be placed in a room with a temperature of 14-18 degrees Celsius for 12 hours before the final death verification is authorized.
On October 19, he's set to go down in history as the country's last firing-squad executioner at Bang Kwang maximum-security prison, just north of Bangkok. After mounting pressure from human-rights groups, the Thai government has agreed to switch from brutal machine-gun executions to death by lethal injection, a method that will allow the condemned to die "in peace with no pain or suffering", says the prison's new deputy director, Natthee Jitsawang.

The move will leave Chaovarej with another job - arranging the transfer of foreign prisoners to jails in their home countries once they've served mandatory terms in Bang Kwang, otherwise known as the "Bangkok Hilton".

"Now I am happy to retire. Less stress," he said. "I executed many people. It's a hard job - not your usual job. I am going to be hanging up the gun now.

"This job is not fun."

In fact, Chaovarej says he witnessed every execution at Bang Kwang since beginning work as a corrections officer in 1972. After assisting with several of the executions, cleaning the gun and preparing the prisoners for their final walk, the father of three conducted his first execution in 1984. He was paid an extra 2,000 baht (US$50).

Since then Chaovarej has executed many people - hitmen, drug dealers and murderers, plus a few big-time politicians he doesn't care to mention. It would not be good for the families of the dead, he explains.

"I do remember the last words a convicted hitman said to the monk," he recalls. "He told the monk he had killed many people and asked for ahr ho sigum, a Thai phrase meaning 'to forgive and forget'. Hitmen kill people for money and they know that someday someone is going to kill them, and they are prepared to die."

Even so, the hitman feared the spirits he believed he'd encounter in the afterlife, Chaovarej added with a smile.

So how does the head executioner cope with the traumatic nature of the job?

"Sometimes I play the guitar and listen to music to relax. My family is proud of what I do. I leave the job at the office. Everyone in my family is into the music."

Chaovarej's musical roots stem from his experience jamming in an air-force band during the Vietnam War at army bases near the border with Laos.

"I played in the officers' clubs in Ubon Ratchathani and Udon Thani from 1968 to '70," he explained, breaking into the chorus of "House of the Rising Sun".

After completing a two-year stint in the service, Chaovarej worked as a translator for Union Oil in southern Thailand before moving to the outskirts of Bangkok to begin his job as prison guard.

Situated on the banks of the Chao Phraya River in leafy Nonthaburi province, Bang Kwang opened its prison gates in 1931. Machine-gun executions in Thailand commenced in 1935, replacing death by decapitation with the use a sword. An original German-made Bremner automatic rifle took 230 lives before a replacement was implemented at Bang Kwan prison.

The Thai government halted executions in 1987 but reintroduced the death penalty in 1996. Since then, the rate of death sentences and executions has increased as Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's government has taken a hard line against amphetamine or ya ba dealers with his popular but highly controversial "war against drugs".

So far, the bulk of convictions have been handed down to "mules" or drug couriers caught with more then 100,000 pills, which earns them the death penalty. "Pla lek nai ang yai," or "Small fish in a big pond," as the locals like to say, noting that the big dealers usually escape such punishment.

The Thaksin government's busiest execution day was April 18, 2001, when five men, including four with drug convictions, were tied to a post and gunned down in "the room to end all suffering" - Bang Kwan's death chamber. In a bid to deter drug traffickers, the government allowed journalists and cameramen in to witness preparations for the executions by Chaovarej and a co-executioner.

"I killed the first prisoner, and then they tied two prisoners to separate poles at the same time. There were many officials there and it was a very hard job to do. But it was my duty," Chaovarej said.

"When the job order comes, there is no time to think. They told us about the executions at lunchtime for the afternoon executions. For five people in one day, you have to check the guns, prepare the ammunition."

Graphic footage of the condemned men in leg irons, kissing the ground before being led into the execution chamber, created an immediate and harsh backlash from international human-rights groups.

Amnesty International damned the killings and the government's move to publicize them.

"It is outrageous for the new Thaksin government to flaunt it's tough anti-drugs stance by executing people. The death penalty provides no solutions to growing crime rates. Instead, it entrenches a culture of violence in society," the group said.

The outcry deterred further "public" executions by Chaovarej, and focused debate on whether use of a machine-gun was a brutal method of killing condemned prisoners.

Under the system set to be replaced, an executioner blasts a round from a 15-bullet clip at the condemned, who are tied to a pole behind a curtain 10 meters way. The prisoners have their hands tied and clutch incense and a lotus blossom, in accordance with Buddhist custom.

Subsequent executions have been low-key and few in number, but the Thai courts have responded to the government's hard line by continuing to hand down the death sentence to dozens of drug traffickers.

On July 26, 2001, a record 19 people - 16 men and three women - were sentenced to death by the Criminal Court in Bangkok for major drug-trafficking offenses. The following month another 17 got the death term on one day. Many of them are now pursuing appeals.

Chaovarej shot his last prisoner in December last year.

"I feel sorry for every prisoner in jail," he said. "I understand about Thai law. Jail is the last step for the prisoner. But the laws of society must be upheld and those that run against them must be punished."

Currently, 6,533 inmates, including 639 foreigners, are crammed into Bang Kwang, originally designed for about half that amount.

Since 1935, 319 prisoners, including three women, have been executed by firing squad in Thailand. The number of people who have received the death sentence has tripled over the past two years, with more than 900 prisoners now on death row, including more than 30 who have exhausted all forms of appeal. Two-thirds of them are drug dealers.

Many say they've actually been lucky - as several thousand people were gunned down in the brutal anti-drug crackdown from February to May this year. Police described the killings as "silencings" by drug-gang members desperate to avoid capture, but human-rights groups say most were extrajudicial murders by police and army teams encouraged by the government to simply eliminate suspected drug dealers.

Chaovarej is philosophical about his role in a justice system often slammed as brutal and deeply flawed. "Everything is a melody of life. Sometimes high and sometimes low," he said. "After each execution, I make merit from my heart. You can't just go to see a monk and your sins are gone."

He paused for a moment and then hit a few strings and sang an old Beatles favorite.

"Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away ... "

Soon, Chaovarej's heart will beat to a lighter rhythm.

Okiecruffler
October 24, 2003, 05:35 PM
Wish we were abit harder on criminals here, but who would want that job. May he find enlightenment on the nobel righteous path.

Cosmoline
October 24, 2003, 05:50 PM
"I love all kinds of music," he said with a wide grin, listing a who's who of '50s and '60s greats, "Andy Williams, Paul Anka, Cliff Richards, Elvis Presley."

---

:D

Nooooo! Just shoot me, please!

Keith
October 24, 2003, 06:20 PM
Nooooo! Just shoot me, please!

Ha! I guess there are things worse than death... Given a choice between a magazine load of .223 in the chest, and listening to some Thai guy do a medley of Andy Williams tunes and I'd have to take the bullets!

Keith

280PLUS
October 24, 2003, 10:55 PM
nothing more than peelings,,,

(chorus)

peelings,,,whoa whoa whoa peelings,,,

:rolleyes:

BluesBear
October 25, 2003, 05:14 AM
How about a chorus or two of "Killing Me Softly With His Song"? :evil:

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