BANGKOK - The rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl, who was shoved off a moving train on an overnight trip from southern Thailand, has sparked public outrage and calls for capital punishment for rapists.
The body of the girl was discovered early Tuesday morning near the train tracks in Prachuap Khirikhan province's Pranburi district, said Police Col. Napanwut Liemsa-nguan, the commander of the police's Children and Women Protection Division.
The girl, who was returning with her sisters from a visit to their grandmother, had disappeared Saturday night from a sleeping berth en route from the southern province of Surat Thai to the capital, Bangkok. The route is also popular among backpackers traveling back from Thailand's island and beach resort destinations.
"Rape cases on public transportation do not occur very often in Thailand, but this case shows that there are loopholes in the system's security which allowed the offender to commit the crimes," Napanwut said.
The man arrested was a railway worker. Napanwut said the suspect told police he was intoxicated from methamphetamine and beer when carrying out the attack. He faced charges of rape, concealing a body and murder, which carries the death penalty.
On Instagram, Thai entertainment stars and celebrities joined the chorus of calls for the law to be changed to make rape punishable only by death. Convicted rapists now face a sentence of four to 20 years in prison and a fine.
Nonthawan "Maeya" Thongleng, the recently-crowned Miss Thailand World 2014, displayed a poster on Instagram calling for a change in the law and commented: "I've always thought of this. I want it changed already. Be more strict, please. #Rapistsmustbeexecuted Don't let this cruel incident happen again and again. RIP Nong Kaem," (the nickname of the victim).
A petition on the online social movement website Change.org that called on Thailand's military leader to make such a legal change attracted nearly 15,000 signatures within one day. Thailand's army ousted an elected civilian government in May.
"The offenders, once arrested and sentenced, usually get pardoned and released from jail. And when they get out, they commit the crime again and again to the point that judicial power in Thailand is no longer sacred," the petition read.
Col. Winthai Suvaree, a spokesman for the ruling junta, said its leader, Army Commander Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, urged the authorities to quickly prosecute the perpetrator and called on the relevant agencies to seek extra safety measures to prevent similar incidents from occurring.
"We must call a meeting with every side involved and will have to revise our recruitment process," State Railway of Thailand governor Prapas Chongsa-nguan told The Associated Press.