Singapore and Thailand: Explaining Differences in Death Penalty Clemency

  • Daniel PascoeEmail author
Part of the Springer Series on Asian Criminology and Criminal Justice Research book series (SSACCJR)


Singapore and Thailand, two nations within the same political and geographical grouping (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), have both utilised the death penalty in murder, drug trafficking and security cases over the past 40 years. Both nations have executed prisoners frequently enough never to have been reclassified from ‘actively retentionist’ states to ‘abolitionist de facto’ states since 1975. However, despite these similarities in death penalty practice, one point of difference is particularly striking. For finalised capital cases (where prisoners have exhausted available judicial remedies), the proportion of death row prisoners granted clemency or pardon, rather than being executed, stands at around 1% for Singapore and over 90% for Thailand, during the 40-year period 1975–2014. Why this remarkable difference, with one jurisdiction seemingly viewing clemency as an extraordinary remedy only to be afforded to a prisoner in the rarest circumstances, while the other jurisdiction’s executive instead endorses clemency as the expected, routine outcome in death penalty cases? In this chapter, the author combines theoretically plausible explanations with local observations to explain why such a marked discrepancy in clemency practices may exist, and to which structural or cultural features of the Singaporean and Thai societies it can be traced.


Death penalty Thailand Singapore Clemency Comparison 



The fieldwork interviews relied upon in drafting this chapter were funded by the Wingate Foundation and the Keith Murray Graduate Scholarship Fund at Lincoln College, University of Oxford.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of LawCity University of Hong KongKowloon TongChina

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