A Parting Shot

Review of 'The Last Executioner' by Chavoret Jaruboon

Capital punishment. The ultimate judgement. The harshest penalty any law can deliver. A final meal with just desserts dished up by the karma police - or just barbaric state-sponsored murder?

Whatever your moral stance, if you were condemned to death in Thailand before the adoption of lethal injection in 2003, your stance would be: strapped to a crucifix, hands bound in a wai (prayer) position, a target over your heart, with your back to Chavoret Jaruboon - who'd be manning his not-always-trusty submachine.

This is the autobiography of the simple but not unreflective, practical man, born a stone's throw from an opium-flouting brothel, who started out as an Elvis-adoring touring musician, and ended up doing away with 55 inmates at Bang Kwang, the infamous Bangkok Hilton.

Seems Jaruboon was just the thick-skinned man for the job, too; at book's end he's able to sleep soundly at night, seemingly untraumatised by the psychic burden of his calling. In fact, so untroubled by guilt is he, it's tempting to conclude that the writer is not only someone who refuses to face down his demons - he won't even acknowledge their existence.

Of course the human mind has complex coping strategies for dealing with trauma. And once you're familiar with the routine, any job can quickly turn into just a job - although one has to wonder about this particular vocation. The thing is, Jaruboon almost seems proud of the murderous role he occupied in the ranks of the Thai "justice" system. If there were sleepless nights, The Last Executioner's not letting on in this account.

Whatever's going on behind those beetling brows, there's something chilling, and quite troubling, about Jaruboon's dispassionate tone.

Unsurprisingly, this makes for sometimes harrowing reading - particularly those anecdotes about convicts who stubbornly refused to die, even after multiple shootings. And, unlike the majority of human beings who crumpled to violent deaths at Jaruboon's hand, it's also pretty hard to put down.

-- Published by Bangkok 101 magazine, 2007


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