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Human Right Watch calls for Thailand to immediately act on Covid-19 outbreaks at prisons

Tanutam Thawan

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Chiang Mai prison / Photo via Department of Corrections ประชาสัมพันธ์ กรมราชทัณฑ์

In response to the recent Covid-19 outbreaks in Thailand prisons, the Human Rights Watch issued a statement saying Thai authorities need to take immediate steps to tackle overcrowding in prisons and release inmates that do not pose a serious risk to the public. The organisation also notes that under international human rights law, the government must provide equal and accessible health care to the inmates, adding that Thailand must act quickly to ensure the infected prisoners are properly treated.

Yesterday, Thailand’s Department of Corrections reported 2,835 inmates at 2 Bangkok prisons tested positive for Covid-19, adding to the hundreds of cases at prisons in Chiang Mai and in the southern province Narathiwat by the Malaysia border. Out of the new cases, 1,795 at Bangkok Remand Prison, making up more than half the prison population. The other 1,040 infections are inmates at the Central Women’s Correctional Institution.

HRW says those held in Thailand’s overcrowded prisons are at “grave risk” of Covid-19. After the outbreak in Narathiwat in early April, prison visits were suspended to prevent the spread of Covid-19. HRW Asia director Brad Adams says authorities had been warned about the situation.

“Many people warned the Thai authorities that they needed to act proactively to avoid such a situation, but it seems they got caught sleeping at the switch.”

Under international law, the Thai government is obligated to provide adequate healthcare to prisoners, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, Brad says. He adds that to prevent the spread of Covid-19, some prisoners should be released to reduce overcrowding and congestion.

“Besides providing health care and virus testing, the authorities should reduce the detainee population through the supervised release of those held on politically motivated charges or for minor offences, or who face greater risk from underlying health conditions.”

HRW says Thailand should take immediate steps to tackle the longstanding problem of overcrowding in prisons and consider the supervised release of inmates who at a high risk of severe infection if they were to contract Covid-19. Those charged with minor offences or who are in pre-trial detention for minor, nonviolent crimes should also be considered for release, HRW says.

SOURCE: HRW

 

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Local Thai journalist speaking fluent Thai and English. Tanutam studied in Khon Kaen before attending Bangkok’s Chulalongkhorn University.

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