Opposition demands better care for inmates amid Covid surge in Bangkok prisons

Parliamentarians of the opposition Move Forward Party demanded better medical care for inmates, after surges of Covid-19 cases in Bangkok Prisons.

“If they end up dying in prison, this is unacceptable,” said MP Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn. “The state has the responsibility to provide adequate medical care.”

More than half of the inmates of Bangkok Remand Prison tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday, or 1,795 out of a total of 3,238, according to the Department of Corrections. A further 1,040 cases were found in the Central Women Correctional Institution, which houses 4,518 inmates.

“The question needs to be asked whether there are enough respiratory devices, adequate ventilation systems, and enough medication for treatment inside the prisons,” Wiroj said.

Many inmates are in court-ordered pre-trial detention, he pointed out. “Bail should be considered” given the questions over the state’s ability to provide decent care, he said.

“With the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, their liberty and their health should be looked after especially during this outbreak.” Courts should also consider the impact on inmates’ families, he said.

Wiroj said prison overcrowding also increased the spread of the virus.

“We have to accept that under the current conditions in our prisons, social distancing is not realistic. Staying even two inches apart is not possible when people have to sleep shoulder-to-shoulder and cross their legs simply to fit.”

Pro-democracy protest leaders Anon Nampa, and Panupong “Mike” Jadnok contracted the virus in the corrections facility.

Another protest leader Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattankul, released on bail from the women’s prison on May 6, said Wednesday she had just tested positive for Covid-19.

She said in a social media post that 50 other inmates had contracted the virus the day before she was released, she had heard in prison.

The Department of Corrections said that she did not contract the virus from the corrections facility as she tested negative on April 23.

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