When one casts an eye over the recent court cases in Thailand, there’s a particularly disquieting element that rears its head: crimes committed by juveniles. Weerasak Chotewanit, the esteemed vice president and deputy spokesperson of the revered Thai Lawyers Professional Group, brings this pressing issue to light by discussing a case that has garnered much attention and prompted challenging questions about the intricacies of Thai law.
Infamously known as “the Siam Paragon Mall incident”, this case involved a 14-year-old boy who allegedly unleashed a barrage of bullets in one of Bangkok’s busiest shopping destinations, resulting in two fatalities and sending five others to the hospital with injuries. These circumstances inevitably open up complex legal conundrums; what happens when a teenager, not yet of age, commits an offence of this magnitude?
Weerasak painstakingly breaks down the legal implications. According to him, the Criminal Procedural Code of Thailand exhibits leniency towards children aged 12 to 15 involved in criminal activities. Essentially, these children can be held “guilty” for a crime, but they’re exempt from receiving punitive measures.
Instead, the court judiciously refrains from incarcerating the juvenile delinquent in a detention center. The alternative? Assigning the youngster to the care of his parents and pairing it with parole officers’ diligent oversight, thus striking a delicate balance between familial care and legal scrutiny.
Weerasak underscored the pandemic of grave offences committed by children under 15, asserting Thai law’s protective shield over them while exploring alternatives measures to penalties.
Turning the tables, the law zeroes in on the culpable parents who turn a blind eye to their offspring’s disconcerting behaviour, meting out punishments for their lack of vigilance rather than punishing the minor.
Weerasak surmises that if the firearm utilized by the teenager in the Siam Paragon Mall case belonged to the parents, the law stipulates that they bear the brunt of the civil damage. However, if the boy procured the gun independently through an online portal, the lawsuit alters its direction with the police becoming liable for unwittingly facilitating children’s access to gun trading.
In response to this worrying trend, Weerasak’s clarion call resonated with urgency. He urged the Thai police to ramp up their efforts in clamping down on online gun traders, a crucial step in preventing such distressing incidents from recurring.