Concerned netizens have called for mandatory death sentence for rape-and-murder crimes, in an angry and swift reaction to the tragic rape and murder on Sunday night of a 13-year-old victim by a State Railway of Thailand employee on a moving train.
Administrators and members of many Facebook pages have launched campaigns to rally public support for the legal-amendment drive, while similar attempts were under way on the online petition service www.change.org even before Sunday's tragedy.
A Facebook account with more than 6,000 members has arranged a public gathering in front of Siam Paragon shopping mall in downtown Bangkok at 11am on Saturday. Attendees have been urged to dress in black in memory of the victim, an unnamed eighth-grade student identified by the nickname of Kaem, who studied at a Nonthaburi school.
The campaign site www.change.org had drawn more than 21,000 signatures out of a total of 50,000 required to push for a legal amendment after a rape-and-murder case in Bangkok last year. Some other activities on Change.org include campaigns to ensure that producers of television series do not play up scripts about sexual offences against females in their shows, and stricter supervision in this area by the broadcast regulator.
The reaction on social media and a public rally are a rare swift response in Thailand over a sexual crime. The response is comparable to the uproar in India last year over the gang rape of a woman on a bus, who was later thrown off the moving vehicle.
Apart from seeking mandatory execution of rape-and-murder convicts, the campaigners also called on the judicial authorities not to pardon or commute prison terms of convicted sexual offenders.
The Criminal Code sentences rapists to jail terms from four to 20 years in general cases of rape, while aggravated offences in which the rape victim is killed on purpose or where death is caused through violent sex acts are punishable by death. The campaigners, however, want rape-and-murder convicts to face the death penalty without exception.
A number of female celebrities posted messages on their social-media sites offering their condolences to the victim and her family while joining awareness campaigns and the drive for legal amendment.
Former Miss Thailand Panadda Wongphudee issued a statement calling on sympathisers to supply photocopies of their identity cards to push for the amendment to increase penalties for convicted sex offenders.
The Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation demanded that SRT governor Prapat Chongsanguan take responsibility and resign. Director Chadet Chaowilai said the crime was not acceptable and would cause great concern among Thai and foreign passengers.
The StopDrink organisation said the sale of alcohol on the trains was deemed one of the reasons behind nuisances, quarrels, accidents and sexual violations that affected general passengers, citing a survey it conducted late last year on 1,160 respondents. A large majority of the respondents backed a ban on alcohol consumption on trains and the sale of liquor at train stations, said Theera Watcharapranee.
Child-rights activist Wallop Tangkhananurak voiced his support for heavier penalties. He also opposed pardon or reduced prison sentences for convicted sex offenders on auspicious occasions. He said the SRT could give no excuses for such an incident and in other countries senior officials would have handed in their resignations.
The National Council for Peace and Order has assigned military and police units to take care of security measures on trains. NCPO spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvari said that although yesterday's meeting did not discuss the murder in particular, the junta leadership expressed concern over the issue.