If you think of a Thai Buddhist temple that offers a treatment program for drug addicts the first temple that comes into mind is the world-famous Wat Thamkrabok in Saraburi.
But there are other temples in the country that offer similar rehabilitation treatments including one in Kanchanaburi that was making the headlines in Thailand this week for all the wrong reasons.
First, the temple – Wat Tha Pu Ratbamrung – did not offer its detox program for free.
Secondly, the place where drug addicts were supposed to be treated looks more like a concentration camp than a rehabilitation center.
The inhumane treatment of patients at the supposed ‘rehab center’ was first exposed by Pisarn Ruangrit, a lawyer, and Jeeraphan “Mor Phra” Saengkhao, a shaman, who said they received complaints from many parents who said their sons were being beaten up and tortured at the center.
The duo posted the story on their social media and told local authorities and reporters which led to videos and news reports this week.
Some of the parents that paid for the detox program and some of the addicts that were being treated told reporters that to enter the program, the temple will ask the addict and his parents to sign away their consent and a contract.
This contract states that the cost to enter the program is 12,000 baht. Once a person enters, his family will have to pay 2,000 baht per month and he cannot leave until he finishes one year program.
If the patient ends the contract early, his family have to pay a fine of 10,000 baht.
By all accounts, the conditions inside the camps were grim.
Patients said that there was only two toilets for 200 people. Everyone lived in one common room with holes through bricks as windows.
They said they were only given one meal a day in unsanitary conditions including shared communal bowls. Many have developed skin diseases because of bad sanitation.
Many people were physically punished if they do follow regulations and people who tried to escape were beaten up and handcuffed by orange-uniformed volunteers, they said.
Their outside contact with their family was monitored and if their family sends money, some if not all of them will be confiscated for various reasons such as attempting to escape, they said.
The only people that get out early are those that can pay the fine.
Lack of oversight
The rehab center, and others like it throughout the country, was supposed to be regulated by the Princess Mother National Institute on Drug Abuse Treatment and the Ministry of Public Health.
Following the news, Jirakiat Poomsawat, Kanchanaburi’s governor, issued an order to move all 200 occupants at the rehab center to Khao Chon Kai Training Camp for the time being.
Local health and religious authorities have already visited the center and they are looking to shut it down.
But despite the conditions at the camp, some have voiced opinions that the patients should not be released to the public in case they relapse.
At the moment, no one has talked about pressing charges. But legal action should follow not only against the administrators of the center but also against the government agencies for their lack of oversight, critics argue.