PHUKET: Violation of narcotics laws is the number one conviction for prisoners serving time in the Phuket Provincial Prison. “Drugs are by far the biggest reason most Thais and foreigners are in here,” Pairoj Pankaew, chief of the prison, told the Gazette today. “Sixty percent of the total number of inmates were convicted on drug charges. Most of them were users, not traffickers, so the amount of drugs seized would be very small if compared with other provinces.” K. Pairoj said that crimes against property or persons were second highest on the list. There are crrently 1,080 Thai prisoners in Phuket prison, 940 of whom are men, and 140 are women. In addition, there are 90 prisoners from Burma, Laos and Cambodia, and another 13 from other countries including Pakistan, India and Germany. Nationwide, there are approximately 220,000 people serving time in prisons, equivalent to about 35 people out of every 10,000 in the country. The number grows by about 3,000 a month. The fastest growth in prison populations is in the North and the Northeast of the country, where about 80% of all convicts are serving time for drug-related offenses. The Phuket Provincial Prison was built in 1901 – it will mark its 100th anniversary in October next year. The facility covers an area of 41 rai, only six of which are covered by accommodation for inmates. Because of overcrowding and a rule that requires prisoners serving terms of more than 15 years to be held in a regional prison, some inmates are transferred to Nakhon Sri Thammarat Region 8 Prison as well as other facilities such as Chaiya Prison in Surat Thani province.
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