Several inmates in Thailand experienced severe living conditions in prison. But, they have basic rights.

What happens in life when one becomes a prisoner? According to universal principles, even if people are incarcerated in prisons, they still need to be protected in many matters. 

Lately, Thai young activists gathered to call for the human rights to practice in the prison. Last year, Ploy Dejvongsa, former prisoner of the Central Women Correctional Institution, along with fellow independent activists gathered to demand the Department of Corrections and the Central Women’s Correctional Institution to follow the principles of human rights. 

 “All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.”

(Article 10 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights)

Tracking back to November 2016, the Thai government claimed in its response to the UN Human Rights Committee’s (CCPR) List of Concerns (LoI) that the state valued the rights and dignity of prisoners and that prison conditions followed international requirements. The government also discussed attempts to improve the well-being and quality of life of women in prison. It would be promising that the government took care of developing the condition for this group of underprivileged and a sign to be respected as a human shining through the bar. 

If this was a movie, the sound of a break would blatantly pop up to wake the audiences. The promise given by the government seems to be yet fulfilled from then to now. Even in 2016, testimony collected by FIDH/UCL during interviews with six former Central Women’s Correctional Institution (CWCI) inmates, five former Bangkok Remand Prison (BRP) inmates, and family members of current BRP inmates refute the government’s arguments. According to study, these two jails appear to have unsafe living conditions, including limited access to medical care, food, and potable water, as well as inadequate sanitation services. These circumstances are in violation of international law. Related problems are likely to occur in Thailand’s other jails. 

The situation of female prisons is worse than the male’s as the conditions for sanitation and different bodily structure are more complicated. Thailand’s prisons continue to ignore female inmates’ human rights, denying them access to vital health care and supplies such as sanitary pads and bras. Thailand’s harsh drug policies have overburdened prisons, exacerbating the current crisis. The study from Prachatai highlights the appalling situation of female prisoners in Thailand, where inmates are handled inhumanely.

The Prachatai reporter interviewed some detainees about problems they faced in women’s prison. Women in prison received a quality bra such as no longer elastic, bra with fungus. ”If you don’t get along well with the room leader, you will get the leftover bras without a chance to choose. Often I always get bras and pants that are too large, so I have to give them away,” said Tick inmate. Moreover, most sanitary pads for women during menstruation have no and no glue. The food that they provide is low quality food, hard to chew. The prisoner mentioned that one she ate porridge with chicken feet and pork so gummy that she couldn’t chew. They do not provide any hot water so they have to eat instant noodles with cold water, she adds.

The room which provides for sleep has not enough capacity. Normally each room suits 30-33 people. Pla said when she arrived there, 77 people were sleeping in that room. Of course, she couldn’t sleep. In the second year, there were about 58 people. After the 2014 coup, they told them to return the blankets relatives had brought us but she wouldn’t let them,” Since the NCPO came into power They have ordered female prisoners not to take anything up to the sleeping hall. They are only allowed to take three pieces of tissue paper with them. But women have specific needs: some are on their period, some wear glasses. They are also barred from taking books. Some women like to write in their diaries and some read prayer books before going to bed,” she said. “But the NCPO gave a sweeping order to prevent any of that. Prison guards told me they are afraid of being found guilty if they don’t follow the orders.”

Once the women detainees get sick, she only gets just paracetamol to cure everything. The solution for women prisoners in reality is simple, ‘not get sick. Although She told the doctor in the jail, they did not even look at her wound; the stitch that she gets infected with was cured by paracetamol. 

Humane treatment is what all people need no matter what the status is at that time. Going to jail or prison obviously means getting one’s freedom limited. That does not, though, suggest that prisoners are denied fundamental civil rights. Even for the most ruthless criminal, human liberties are safeguarded. When you or someone you know is in prison, you should be mindful of your rights, as well as the rights of your spouse or loved one while imprisoned. 

In 2019, a Thai corrections officer was sentenced to life in prison for attempted murder, while others were fired for failing to follow a proposed stringent code of conduct. According to Morris and Nguyen (2019), Thailand’s jails have long been accused of being fraught with abuse and malpractice. Drug trafficking, smartphone smuggling, and even the attempted execution of prisoners for learning too much have all been suggested as examples of corruption.

Eight common rights granted for inmates

  1. Inmates have rights to access meals with the proper nutrition recommended and the sufficient amount. Also, the Department of Corrections guarantees that all inmates receive three free meals a day from the first day until the final day of punishment terms. 
  2. Inmates have rights to dress suitable for the climate. Most inmates tend to have their own clothes from their relatives. Unless inmates afford them, the department would procure clothing, blankets and personal items .
  3. The accommodation has to be cleaned according to the sanitary requirement. 
  4. inmates have rights to accessible free hospitals. Every prison requires to have necessary medical workers 
  5. Inmates have rights to contact relatives and lawyers. 
  6. Inmates have rights to perform religious rituals according to their belief. 
  7. Inmates have rights to contact other people through paper mail.
  8. Inmates have rights to receive information, read a book and journal available in the prison. Also, they can watch, read and listen to other forms of media to acquire information and knowledge.

On the other hand, some opponents argue that the prospect of jail is no longer a deterrent. It’s just a place to live without pay and become home, workplace and criminal gang squares to assemble. In the UK, drug sellers are able to get into prisons to do business, and prisoners are so secure and comfortable inside that they do not want to leave (Knapton, 2008). 

However, we must admit that it is a positive thing that the jail system treats inmates with some dignity. With a few exceptions like to forever contain serious criminals according to life sentence, the goal of incarceration is to rehabilitate men and women and reintegrate them into society, not to build retirement communities, capturing them forever and ruining their mental health. The aim of this article is not to call for the comfy materials or other facilities beyond basic human rights. We just aim to hand the human rights they belong and deserve. 

Looking at these cases, …

According to Thai Rath news article in 2018, a journalist interviewed one of the female inmates who had an experience in the prison, Wilailak Sae Un, or Ann. She asserted that the wardens allow prisoners to shower 20 people each round by standing around a rectangular basin. They provide a bowl for each with the staff who blow the whistle and tell them to take the first three bowls of water to shower themselves. Whoever wants to wash hair, face or clean themselves must be done before seven bowls. Then, prison officials blow a whistle to let prisoners know when to stop and the inmates must be completely wiped out because the officers force inmates to take only 10 bowls after the last whistle is finished.

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Another report by iLaw in 2020 claims that in Bangkok’s correctional facilities, sleeping dormitories lack beds and are simply empty rooms where inmates are forced to sleep on the floor. Former prisoners have alleged that the uncomfortable housing quarters have affected their health, citing leg and back pain as a result of being unable to move through the night. 

The cases mentioned before are common conditions for rights’ violation in prisons. For example, although there are different areas for sentenced and awaiting trial inmates, the jail does not follow this isolation scheme due to overcrowding. Furthermore, aging inmates, ill inmates, and inmates with mental health problems are often held with the general jail population. However, human right violations have frequently occurred in Thailand as well. 

Nelson Mandela, a former great president of South Africa, gave an interesting opinion about the relation of human rights and prison conditions. He stated that if you really want to get to know a particular country, you have to look at that country’s jail because determining which countries really have a high level of human rights requires one to observe how the government treats the citizens who get the least attention from the society. 

Inadequate access to medical treatment, insufficient food and potable water, and poor sanitation facilities continue to plague the prisons. Inmates have the freedom to inquire about their conditions in jail and to express their complaints to prison authorities as well as the courts. Inmates who were refused these protections can file the case against prison authorities over problems like being placed in solitary confinement after protesting about prison conditions. Health and mental health care was also given to prisoners. These treatments, including accommodations for the poor, just need to be fair or adequate. 

Going to jail or prison obviously means getting one’s freedom limited. However, this does not imply that Thai prisoners are denied fundamental human rights. Even the most ruthless criminal has human rights. When you or someone you know is imprisoned, you should be mindful of your rights, as well as the rights of your spouse or loved one while imprisoned.

REPEAT, you have rights despite limited conditions.