Full Synopsis for The Last Executioner

June 30, 2014
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Chavoret Jaruboon was the last person in Thailand whose job it was to execute by gun. A wild rock and roller in his youth who played the GI bars during the Vietnam War, he took a job as a prison guard to support the family he loved with undying devotion. He spent the rest of his life struggling to reconcile the good and bad karma that came from that decision and the 55 lives he took in 19 years as an executioner at the infamous Bang Kwang Central Prison, aka “The Bangkok Hilton.”

On Chavoret’s 11th birthday, coinciding with JFK’s assassination, his father, a teacher, bought him his first guitar and he immediately started playing Elvis riffs. Later in the day, they went to see a fortune teller who made the prediction of karma that shapes the rest of his life and the lives of all those around him: “Your fate is to work with death.”

In the 1960s, while playing manic rock and roll at a bar aptly named “Sorry About That,” he meets Tew, a local girl, with whom he falls in love and will share the rest of his life. Facing the archetypal dilemma of the artist who feels the need to do something “respectable,” Chavoret trades his guitar for a prison guard’s baton, although rock and roll remains near and dear to him until the day he dies.

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After fourteen years of working his way up through the prison ranks and impressing the authorities with his solid work ethic, sense of duty, and ‘jai yen’ (coolness), Chavoret is offered the job of head executioner when the old executioner suddenly retires. Although haunted by the prophesy from his youth, especially in the form of the Spirit, a good-looking, well-dressed guy who seems to show up everywhere in Chavoret’s life, he accepts the job – after all, it pays an extra 2,000 baht per execution. Chavoret is extremely professional – almost nonchalant – at his first execution.

Chavoret continues to live a divided life. One, some would say, as a killer. The other as a devoted family man whose music is always his saving grace. His blind faith in the judicial process, his duty, and most of all his karma seems to allow him to keep the two lives separated, with the help of very prescribed personal rituals before, during, and after each execution. But sometimes the wall between them begins to crack. He is uncharacteristically shaken up by his first and only execution of a woman, who in a surreal and perhaps prophetic scene, dies twice.

His life continues as a weird see-saw between karma/killing on the one hand, and karma/family life on the other. He continues to execute with precision and purpose, yet he also enjoys nights out of karaoke and German food with his wife. He can coolly pull the trigger on the same day he plays with his granddaughter, whom he absolutely adores.

Through it all, the Spirit continues to dog him, appearing in perfectly normal settings, more and more with two other seemingly common guys. He can never escape his karma.

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When Thailand changes from execution by gun to lethal injection, Chavoret is honored at a turnover ceremony at which 319 balloons are released representing the freedom of the souls of all the prisoners executed by gun over more than 70 years. After declining to be on the new execution team, Chavoret becomes head of the prison’s Foreign Affairs Division where he gets to do what he enjoys and is good at. He becomes a minor celebrity – writing books, attending embassy parties, doing endless print and TV interviews, educating students, and even appearing on a TV game show, a Thai version of the old American show, “To Tell the Truth.”

He becomes a Buddhist monk for a short time, during which he experiences a series of visions and epiphanies which mirror his inner conflicts and his own health. Soon after he decides to retire, and he and Tew look forward to a new life of freedom and travel. On one trip, he collapses with terrible stomach pains. His daughter Chulee forces him to see a doctor who ultimately gives the diagnosis of intestinal cancer. He braves on, not wanting to spend money on his treatment that could go to this family. The day his granddaughter asks him to play guitar but he can no longer control his fingers is the beginning of the end.

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On his deathbed in the hospital, in excruciating pain, he is visited by the two men who have been appearing to him with the Spirit. They are the tragi-comedy team, traditional in Thai culture, of Death’s assistants (Yomatoot). When they drag him to the place where prisoners would write their last statements and tell him to write how he wants to be remembered, Chavoret writes “Husband, Father, Musician” but not “Executioner.”

In a penultimate scene, Yama (the Spirit and Death) and his two assistants come to weigh Chavoret’s Boon and Baap (Merit and Sin) while Chulee desperately rushes to the hospital after getting a call at midnight. When she gets there, the two assistants are already taking Chavoret through a red door like the one between the prison and the Wat (temple) that executed prisoners were passed through. Chulee tries to stop them, but she can’t.

At the end of this story of life at its most beautiful and death at its most surreal, Chavoret’s karma hangs in the balance.

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One Response to Full Synopsis for The Last Executioner

  1. John Greet
    June 20, 2015 at 11:01 am

    I remember him well, he would suddenly appear in the building and the name Chavoret would be whispered around the prisoners, it meant hide your dope and quickly. When i was in solitary and had my guitar there, he would always insist that i play him something. Although he was a scary guy i could feel his humanity. Between 92 and 97 there was only one execution, the botched shooting of the barber. I often wondered how he felt about that, does he talk about that in the book?

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