Thai national on death row wins bid to have appeal reheard

PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court has set aside the conviction of a Thai national who was sentenced to death for the possession of firearms eight years ago.

The four-member bench chaired by Rohana Yusuf which allowed Songsil Udtoom’s review application to quash the death sentence said the apex court had not adequately informed him of the grounds for his conviction.

“The conviction is therefore quashed. The appeal is to be heard all over again before a new panel,” Rohana said.

The others on the bench were Mohd Zawawi Salleh, Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim and Nallini Pathmanathan.

Alizatul Khair Osman Khairuddin, a bench member who heard the review last year, had since retired.

Lawyer M Visvanathan, who represented Songsil, said the Federal Court registry would conduct a case management to rehear the appeal.

Songsil, 53, who filed the review about a year ago, was present in court. He was sentenced to death by the High Court in 2012.

Speaking today, he said he had the right to know why the five-member bench had set aside his acquittal by a lower court.

The Federal Court had affirmed the High Court conviction and sentence on May 4, 2016.

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 appeared with Manjeet Singh Dhillon, said the court had also abdicated its duty by not giving its judgment.

He had written to the court registry asking for the transcript and written grounds but to no avail.

He said a letter from the Federal Court registry stated that the judgment would not be made available as it did not generate new points of law.

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.

They were accused of having in their possession six firearms without valid reason as well as 336 bullets of various types without authority under the now-repealed Internal Security Act.

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.