Thailand’s Death Penalty

Chavoret Jaruboon preparing to execute a prisoner

This is the second part of the review of The Last Executioner (click here for part one).

Between 1984 and 2002, Chavoret Jaruboon shot dead 55 prisoners. In his autobiography, “The Last Executioner”, he describes some of the more notable cases. Two stories in particular stand out. One of them was of the execution of a man who pleaded his innocence right up to the last moment. He said that the real guilty party was the son of a policeman and that he was beaten into making a confession. During his execution, it looked like he was almost being saved by divine providence. When Chavoret pulled the trigger the gun jammed and it wouldn’t fire. He checked the gun but couldn’t see any reason why it wouldn’t fire. They then set up the spare machine gun. After it was carefully aimed, Chavoret then pulled the trigger. But, this one jammed too. The prisoner might have been saved, however, a quick thinking guard decided to search the prisoner more thoroughly. They then found a Buddhist amulet called Luang Phor Daeng hidden in his right armpit. They do say that some amulets are powerful enough to protect you from bullets. Or maybe the monk, whose image was on this amulet, was trying to protect an innocent man. Anyway, once the amulet was removed the gun became unjammed and the prisoner was executed.

Probably the most gruesome record of an execution of a prisoner described in the book was of Ginggaew, who was a maid and nanny for a wealthy family. She was only the second woman to have been executed by gun in Thailand. This happened on 13th January 1979, only three months after her arrest. Ginggaew had been fired from her job. She later claimed it was a dispute over the amount of money in her pay packet. She talked to her boyfriend about this and he came up with the plan of kidnapping their son and holding him for ransom. So, Ginggaew picked up the boy from school, like she had done many times in the past. She then left a randsom note that asked for 200,000 baht. The parents were instructed to take a train out of Bangkok, and at a designated place marked by a flag, they were to throw the cash out of the train window. Unfortunately, although the parents were on the train with the cash, they didn’t spot the flag. Enraged, the kidnappers turned on the boy and brutally stabbed him. Ginggaew tried to stop them but she was kicked away. Out of the six gang members who were arrested, three of them were sentenced to death. This included Ginggaew who didn’t take any part in the killing.

At this time, Chavoret had been promoted from prisoner escort to gun aimer. This is his account of that execution: “As she approached the room she had to be revived from another faint. I found this very difficult to deal with. Between us we finally got the stricken woman to the cross. She cried while they bound her at the waist, shoulders, and elbows. Her arms were brought up over the beam in a position of prayer. Still, she struggled and tried vainly to break free. The escorts pulled across the screen and fixed it so that the white square indicated where her heart was. They then stepped away out of range. I walked to the gun to load it and aim it at the target on the screen. I was aware that Ginggaew was still struggling. I secured the gun over her stifled sobs, locking it into position. When I was satisfied, I nodded at Prathom to take over. He took his position and at 5.40 p.m. exactly he released ten bullets into Ginggaew’s body”

The doctor went over to her body to check for a pulse. After he had pronounced her dead, her body was brought down from the cross and carried to the morgue in the adjacent room. Her chest was riddled with bullets and there was blood everywhere. The escort then went to bring in the next prisoner. While this man was being tied to the cross, everyone was distracted by a noise from the morgue. Looking through the open door they could see that Ginggaew was trying to raise herself from the slab. The escorts rushed back into the room. One of them turned her over and put pressure on her chest to make the blood gush out faster. Another tried to strangle her. But, Chavoret told them to stop. It was wrong of them to kill her in this manner. By this time the second prisoner had been shot and then removed to the morgue. So, they took her back to the execution room, tied her back to the cross and then all fifteen bullets were fired into her body. This time the doctor said she was definitely dead.

Fortunately, this barbaric method of execution has now been outlawed in Thailand. This was then replaced by lethal injection which was considered to be more humane. Though civil rights groups in American are campaigning that it is actual a painful way to die. According to the Department of Corrections, a prisoner is injected with three kinds of drugs consisting of sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride. The first drug is a barbiturate which makes the prisoner unconscious. The second one is a muscle relaxant which can paralyze the entire muscle and stop breathing. The last one stops the heart and causes cardiac arrest. Hopefully there will be a time when the death penalty will be abolished in Thailand. For eight years during the 1990’s, it looked like that Thailand would no longer execute any of their prisoners on death row. However, 48 prisoners were then executed between 1997 and 2004. This suddenly stopped again, though who knows whether they will restart.

Some people objected to the previous book I reviewed called Escape by David McMillan. They argued that a criminal shouldn’t make money from his crime. However, I argued that his book was of historical importance as it is an account of the only foreigner to have escaped from Klong Prem Prison. Some people have also protested against the subject matter of The Last Executioner. They say that this gruesome tale shouldn’t be told. Nor should the executioner benefit from it. However, again I think this book is of historical importance. It is a record of execution methods in Thailand in the twentieth century told from the point of view of the executioner. To his credit, Chavoret never glamorizes his job nor dwells on death. He did not choose the job for himself. He only accepted it as it was seen as promotion and meant that the extra cash (2000 baht bonus per execution) could be used to put his three children through school. Now with royalties from this book, he could probably contribute to his grandchildren’s education.

“The Last Executioner” has been well written in the first person by ghost writer Nicola Pierce. This was the same writer that collaborated on the previous book I reviewed called “The Angel of Bang Kwang”. If you are interested in this genre, then I would highly recommend this book. It not only tells you about life growing up in the 60’s in Thailand, but also a slice of the history of Bang Kwang. After all, Chavoret has been working there now for more than 35 years in various roles. For the last six years he has been head of the Foreign Affairs Section at the prison. Apparently there are now over 10,000 foreign criminals in Thailand. A comment that he makes about the foreigners in his prison is that they like to complain a lot. Which is probably true. Thai prisoners tend to accept their fate more. However, this wasn’t the case in 1985 during the now famous Bang Kwang riots where seven prisoners were shot dead. Overall the book was fast paced and I finished reading within one day.

Today, Chavoret Jaruboon is sometimes seen at the front gate of Bang Kwang welcoming foreign visitors to his prison. I am going to try and set up an interview with him which should prove fascinating to read. I would also like to interview Nicola Pierce if that is possible as she is about to release her third book on Thailand. I will tell you more about this later as it develops. I will also be bringing you reports of a visit to this maximum security prison and an interview with one of the prisoners there.

The actual gun used in these executions is on display in the Prison Museum. They also have the sword that was used for beheading. You can see pictures of these items as well as forms of tortue in our other website at To find the location of Bang Kwang Prison on Google Earth, please visit our website at I have also added detailed maps marking locations in the prison as well as the execution chamber.

“The Last Executioner” by Chavoret Jaruboon and Nicola Pierce is published by Maverick House. It is available in all good bookstores at online at Amazon. All pictures are from the book. Thanks to the publishers for sending us a review copy.


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