This establishes Malaysia as only the third country in the region of Southeast Asia to ban the death penalty


The Malaysian government plans to abolish the death penalty and to stop its 1200 pending executions, a move which has drawn copious amounts of praise from the human rights community.

Malaysia’s Law Minister Liew Vui Keong told Channel NewsAsia, “All death penalty will be abolished. Full stop. Since we are abolishing the sentence, all executions should not be carried out. We will inform the Pardons Board to look into various applications for convicts on the [death penalty] waiting list to either be commuted or released.”

The move comes on the heels of a political upheaval in Malaysia. New Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad just won a surprising upset election bid, during which he promised that his administration would uphold human rights. In addition to repealing the death penalty, the government is now considering a repeal of the Sedition Act, a law carried over from Colonial era times which has been used to suppress critics and opposition parties by past administrations.

This establishes Malaysia as only the third country in Southeast Asia to ban the death penalty, alongside Cambodia and the Philippines. But the Philippines could be moving to reinstate the death penalty under Rodrigo Duterte’s leadership.

Malaysian law currently establishes the death penalty as a punishment for murder, drug trafficking, treason, and waging war against the king. A case involving Muhammad Lukman Mohamad, a cannabis oil salesman, helped to ignite outrage against the death penalty back in August, as reported by the New York Times. Mohamad received the death penalty for selling medical cannabis oil to cancer patients, prompting the Prime Minister to call for a review of his sentencing. Both the abolition of the death penalty and repealing the Sedition Act were on the platform of Mahathir Mohamad’s coalition during the election, but received little attention.

The Amnesty Project praised the decision by the Malaysian government to end capital punishment, telling the New York Times the move was “a major step forward for all those who have campaigned for an end to the death penalty in Malaysia.”