Tell me why I’m being hanged, Thai on death row urges court

PETALING JAYA: A Thai national on death row for possession of firearms is challenging his capital punishment even as the Federal Court that convicted him refuses to offer reasons for the verdict.

Songsil Udtoom, who was sentenced to death by the High Court in 2012, says he has the right to know why a five-member bench set aside his acquittal by a lower court.

His lawyer, M Visvanathan, said Songsil’s case was unprecedented as a condemned man was asking why his life was being taken away for reasons unknown to him.

“The refusal of the Federal Court to give Songsil the grounds of judgment when his life is being taken away is a breach of Article 5 of the Federal Constitution,” he told FMT.

The human rights lawyer, who is appearing with Manjeet Singh Dhillon, says the court also abdicated its duty by not giving its reasoned judgment.

Visvanathan said he had written to the court registry asking for the transcript and written grounds but to no avail.

“A letter from the Federal Court registry stated that the judgment will not be made available because it did not generate new points of law,” he said, adding that the review application was filed last month.

The Federal Court will now hear the application on May 28. The 51-year-old wants the court set aside the verdict and hear a fresh plea.

Songsil was one of three Thai nationals arrested along with a Malaysian on Feb 4, 2007, in a room at Pyramid Tower Hotel in Bandar Sunway on suspicion of robbing a goldsmith outlet in Subang Parade a day before.

Songsil; his older brother Jukkis; Loo Yeong Guang from Rantau, Negeri Sembilan; and his Thai girlfriend Phailin Noochangphueak were sentenced to death by the High Court in 2012.

In the first charge, they were accused of having in their possession six firearms without valid reasons under Section 57 (1)(a) of the now-repealed Internal Security Act.

In the second charge, they were accused of having in their possession 336 bullets of various types without authority under Section 57 (1)(b) of the same law.

In 2015, the Court of Appeal set aside the High Court verdict and acquitted the four.

Since the prosecution appealed against the acquittals, the Thais were held in remand, but Loo, who was freed, never attended court during the prosecution’s appeal.

On Oct 2, 2016, the bench chaired by then-chief justice Arifin Zakaria sentenced Jukkis and Phailin to two years’ jail on a reduced charge of possession of bullets under the Arms Act.

They were subsequently freed but Songsil was sentenced to death.