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Rape & murder of Thai girl sparks calls for capital punishment

In Thailand, the rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl on an overnight train has left the country shocked, and many calling for the death penalty.

BANGKOK: In Thailand, the rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl on a public train has left the country shocked, and many calling for the death penalty.

The victim, known as Kaem, was attacked when she was travelling to Bangkok from southern Thailand on a cross-country sleeper train with her older sister.

A male train worker confessed to sneaking into her carriage in the dead of night and opening a window to stifle her cries.

He allegedly threw her body from the moving train and returned to a night of drink and drugs.

Now there are calls for the 22-year-old to pay for the crime with his life.

The maximum punishment for murder is already the death penalty, although it is rarely enforced.

But in a country where a rape occurs every 15 minutes, this case has sparked a huge debate over the use of capital punishment for violent sexual assault.

Government data showed that last year, there was an average of 87 cases of rape per day.

The current punishment for rape in Thailand is 20 years’ imprisonment.

However, Thailand's online community has been using social media to demand change.

A petition has gathered more than 15,000 signatures.

Celebrities too have joined the discussion.

Media personality Ampairat Techapoowapat said: "Many people have been vocal in this case, posting and sharing the message that rape should equal execution. This is a reflection of public opinion. We all want an end to this problem. We are bored of hearing about these stories. They happen every day and nothing changes in Thai society."

However, while the country remains under a military government, rights groups against the widening of the death penalty are concerned this public outcry could push the army into making a quick decision over amendments to the law.

Activist Chumaporn Taengkliang said: "This is the number one fear during this sensitive period. The military government is prepared to do anything to appease the public."

While the military government does hold the power with regard to amending the laws, lawyers suggest that this may not be ideal.

Former senator Wanchai Sonsiri said: "If the National Council wants to change the law it would be very easy. However, I don't think that it should be the responsibility of the NCPO. There should be a wider debate and then put it to the newly-installed parliament for consideration. "

While calls for the death penalty in this case may not prove successful, it has mobilised Thais to call for change, and ensure crimes like this can be prevented. 

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