02/26/2016, 13.10
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Thai Buddhists and Catholics against the death penalty, useless in crime prevention

by Weena Kowitwanij

Buddhist abbot Phra Paisal Visalia speaks about Pope Francis’ appeal for the abolition of the practice. “Research conducted around the world shows [. . .] that countries that have cancelled capital punishment saw a drastic drop in serious crimes,” he said, adding, “destroying a life is against Buddhist doctrine”. For Catholic priest, “If you commit a crime it is the right thing to receive an appropriate punishment,” but prisoners should be given “an opportunity to correct their mistakes”.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) - The death penalty "does not protect from crimes nor causes their reduction. Research conducted around the world shows instead that countries that have cancelled capital punishment saw a drastic drop in serious crimes,” said Phra Paisal Visalia, abbot of the Buddhist temple of Wat Pa Sukato, in northeastern Thailand.

Phra Paisal Visalia is an academic, writer and practitioner of Dharma. He spoke to AsiaNews about Pope Francis’ appeal on 21 February against the death penalty and for a moratorium on death sentences during the Jubilee of Mercy.

“Killing or destroying a life is against Buddhist doctrine,” the abbot explained. “For a Buddhist, the first and most important precept is not to kill or harm a life, because he believes that there are better ways to solve the problems."

Reducing crime “can be achieved by restrictive measures that take away the opportunity for offenders to commit further crimes,” Phra Paisal noted. “In addition, economic and social development are a way to encourage people to do something good, reducing the inclination to crime."

For monk Phramaha Supachai, Buddhism believes that a person, if properly educated, can develop himself or herself and that problem solving can be done by the Law of Karma rather than revenge.

Thailand uses the death penalty in extreme cases, like murder or drug trafficking. Thai society is divided on the subject: each time an execution is carried out, many people appeal for human rights, whilst others tolerate the practice for security issues.

In 2003, lethal injection replaced the firing squad as the method of execution. The last time the death penalty was applied in 2009, when two drug traffickers were put to death.

The Thai Church has been fighting for the abolition of the death penalty for a long time. “If you commit a crime it is the right thing to receive an appropriate punishment according to the laws of the State to ensure stability and security,” said Fr Watchasilp Kritcharoen, director of the Pontifical Mission Works.

“The Catholic Church is against the death penalty, but it acknowledges that in the case of extreme crimes it is necessary to apply it according to government laws,” he added.

Still, the clergyman would like to see “the use of different measures that respect human life and give prisoners an opportunity to correct their mistakes and become a better person."

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