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Justice Minister eyes new billion-baht Phuket Prison



PHUKET: Justice Minister Pracha Promnok today reviewed plans to close the 115-year-old and heavily overcrowded Phuket Provincial Prison in Phuket Town and establish a 3,000-person capacity prison in Thalang.

Pol Gen Pracha announced details of the new prison, which is set to be established on 108 rai of government land near the Bang Jo detention center in Srisoonthorn, Thalang.

However, even without land costs, the budget for the new facility is expected to be about 1 billion baht.

“Phuket Provincial Prison is 115 years old, that’s too old. A new prison is necessary,” said Phuket Provincial Prison Chief Rapin Nichanon.

Chief Rapin explained that Phuket Prison was originally built to hold only a few hundred prisoners, but the facility currently has nearly 2,000 inmates in its protective custody.

Department of Corrections Director-General Suchart Wongananchai echoed Chief Rapin’s thoughts about Phuket Prison’s current capacity, pointing out that with as many prisoners as the facility currently has, inmates are allowed only a very short amount of time to spend with visitors.

“The new prison will be up to international standards,” said Col Suchart. “We have to accept that the governments of the world cannot allow one small jail dormitory to be occupied by 50 to 80 inmates, as it is a violation of basic human rights.

“A new prison is the only solution, as the old prison cannot be expanded anymore,” he said.

Col Suchart explained that the plans for the new facility at Bang Jo had already been drawn up. “Now, we are waiting for Justice Minister Pracha to review and approve the budget,” he said.

During the meeting, Gen Pracha explained that he would like the new Phuket prison to be much like the prison on Koh Samui.

“As Phuket is a tourism destination, it is important that our new prison is like Koh Samui Prison, which is now a tourist attraction, meets international standards and is a beautiful structure that is in harmony with the environment,” he said.

Corrections Director-General Suchart also pointed out that Koh Samui Prison is located in a beautiful area on Samui and that a resort and spa was close by, allowing the products produced by the prisoners to become a tourist attraction.

Acknowledging the potential benefits, Gen Pracha said that officers from Phuket will be instructed to visit Koh Samui Prison to observe the operations there.

At the meeting this morning, Srisoonthorn Mayor Worawut Songyot introduced the idea of naming the prison something “softer and more interesting” than Phuket Provincial Prison.

Gen Pracha said the request would be taken into consideration by the Department of Corrections.

“Today, we have come into agreement about the project. However, to build a prison we must take into consideration the feelings of the local people,” said Director-General Suchart.

One idea that might help appease locals, brought up by a village leader and supported by Mayor Worawut, was to add the construction of a sports field for locals to the budget.

For a Phuket Gazette editorial on this topic click here and scroll to page 26.

— Atchaa Khamlo


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