BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand has enacted a new anti-corruption law that extends a maximum penalty of capital punishment to foreigners.
Previous legislation provided various punishments, including a possible death penalty, for Thai officials convicted of bribery, though apparently no one was ever executed for the crime. The new statutes, which took effect July 9 and are part of a separate anti-corruption law, extend those punishments to non-Thais working for foreign governments and international organizations.
The military government that took power following the ouster of an elected civilian government last year has said countering corruption is one of its major goals.
Although such action is touted as part of a reform movement to clean up Thai politics, it is widely seen as targeting former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled by a previous military coup in 2006. Thaksin was accused of corruption, but also built a powerful, populist political machine that challenged the privileges of the country's traditional elite, associated with the military and the royal palace.
Another provision of the new anti-corruption law states that a statute of limitations of 20 years no longer applies if the convicted person flees the country. Thaksin was convicted in 2008 of a corruption-related charge but fled abroad. The old statute of limitations would have allowed him to return in 10 years.
Several corruption-related charges are also pending against Thaksin's sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, who was prime minister until shortly before the army ousted her government last year.
The secretary-general of the National Anti-Corruption Commission, Sansern Poljieak, has been quoted by Thai media as saying that the punishments under the new law are appropriate because graft involving public servants is a severe offense.
However, the new law also has critics.
"This is a huge step in the wrong direction," Amnesty International spokesman Olof Blomqvist said in an email. "Thailand should be working to remove the death penalty from the legal books, not expanding its scope."