World, Asia - Pacific

Thai prison conditions worse after 2014 coup: report

Rights group says restrictions on prisoner rights have increased, conditions don’t conform to int’l standards

28.02.2017
Thai prison conditions worse after 2014 coup: report FILE PHOTO

By Max Constant

BANGKOK 

Failure to enact reforms in Thailand’s prison system after a 2014 coup has created conditions for rife human rights violations, according to a report released by an international rights group Tuesday.

Andrea Giorgetta, the Asia representative for the International Federation of Human Rights, told a press conference in Bangkok that the government’s claim that conditions conform to international standards is false.

“The United Nations have reviewed prison conditions in Thailand in relation to different treaties to which Thailand is a party, and they have repeatedly criticized Thailand for substandard conditions,” he underlined.

The 39-page report -- Behind the walls, a look at conditions in Thailand’s prisons after the coup -- was released ahead of a mid-March review of Thai prison records by a UN human rights committee in Geneva.

One of the main problems highlighted by Giorgetta was overcrowding, with “1.1 square meter per male prisoner and 1.2 square meter per female prisoner” -- far less than the International Committee of the Red Cross’ minimum standard of 3.4 square meter per prisoner.

He also mentioned the insufficiency of food and potable water, as well as corporal punishments inflicted on prisoners -- a practice that contravenes the Convention against Torture ratified by Thailand.

“The coup has made the situation worse. There have been further restrictions for access to the prisons and restrictions on rights of the prisoners have increased,” Giorgetta underlined.

Listed among the most worrying new factors since the May 22, 2014 coup -- which saw the military overthrow the elected government of then Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra -- is the use of military compounds as detention facilities.

A temporary detention facility has been established in one such Bangkok facility, the 11th Army Circle Base.

According to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, a local NGO, 47 civilians were or still are detained in the compound because authorities say their cases concern national security.

Two lese-majeste prisoners were found dead in the detention facility in October and November 2015.

According to authorities, one “hanged himself” and the other died of septicemia. Autopsies were conducted in a hurried manner and without transparency.

Danthong Breen, an advisor to the Union for Civil Liberties local NGO who contributed to the report, made a blunt assessment of the situation in Thai prisons since the coup.

“The system has become more like a concentration camp than a prison,” he said at Tuesday’s press conference.

He told of “regular” beatings of prisoners by groups of men “dressed in black”.

“In one case, 30 prisoners had been taken away. When some came back, they said to their fellow prisoners: ‘please, don’t let yourself be taken out’,” he said.

“The ordinary wardens are quite unhappy about this, because it makes their work with prisoners even more difficult,” he added.

Abuses at such facilities have gone unreported in the Thai press.

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