National Assembly (NA) members yesterday voiced their support for keeping the death penalty, which is handed down to people who have committed serious crimes, including brutal acts of murder and possession of large quantities of drugs.
Assembly members expressed their feelings on the issue when commenting on the draft of the Criminal Code during a debate session.
The Ministry of Justice has enhanced the Criminal Code to replace the existing Penal Law in the hope that it will be a better guide for criminal lawsuits.
The ministry introduced the draft, which contains 420 articles, to sound out the opinion of NA members before submitting it to the Assembly for approval.
Of the 420 articles, 309 specify certain offences, with 12 categories of offences subject to the death penalty.
Under the Penal Law, these offences include treason, rebellion, spying, physical harm against the interests of national security, destruction, disruption of state or social undertakings, civil commotion, destruction or attack of detention and reformatory centres, the use of chemical weapons, murder, battery, and drug trafficking.
In his deliberation before handing the draft to the floor for debate, NA Vice President Mr Somphanh Phengkhammy reminded members that many countries had done away with the death penalty.
NA member for Oudomxay province Colonel Khamphong Vichit said he supported the idea of terminating the death penalty for most crimes but wanted the new Criminal Code to maintain the death penalty for cruel murders and dealers in hard drugs.
Even though the Penal Law mandates the death penalty, it has frequently not been enforced when a court verdict has stipulated it.
NA member for Luang Namtha province, Mr Kongphet Keobuapha said that if the death penalty were waived for certain crimes, the term of imprisonment should be extended from the current maximum of 20 years to 25 or 30 years.
Members pointed to several loopholes in the draft and asked the drafting sub-committee to close them.
Mr Kongphet said that if the Criminal Code stipulated only one ceiling fine for a category of crime, that could allow officials too much leeway in issuing fines, as they would have the freedom to impose the full amount or levy just a small fine if they were so disposed.
Colonel Khamphong raised his concerns about terms of imprisonment that had a large range of, for example, one to five years, saying officials were at liberty to decide on any length they pleased.
He also wanted the punishment for hit and run drivers to be clarified, saying discrimination should be made between drivers who fled the scene of an accident and continued to hide, and those who drove off but later went to a police station.
NA member for Phongsaly province Mr Buathong Ousengkham said he wanted the new Criminal Code to clarify the punishment for offences relating to corruption in civil servant recruitment. He complained that no one who committed such an offence was punished.
Source: Vientiane Times