Joint Letter to Thailands Department of Corrections

An open letter has been sent to Director-General Pol Col Naras Savestanan, of Thailands Department of Corrections requesting that he takes immediate steps to release prisoners and ensure the health and safety of all those in detention facilities.

The letter, signed by 11 national and international human rights organizations, including; ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), Fairly Tell, FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights, Fortify Rights, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw), Manushya Foundation, Protection International, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) and Working Group for Political Prisoners (Thailand) expresses their concern over the potentially disastrous impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the prison population and prison staff in Thailand.

The letter suggests that “the COVID-19 pandemic provides an opportunity to immediately begin addressing the long-standing issue of overcrowding in places of detention in Thailand. These include prisons as well as immigration detention centres.

With Thailand’s total prison occupancy at over 300% capacity, the implementation of social distancing and other protective measures aimed at ensuring the health and safety of all persons is currently impossible for the 379,190 prisoners (331,405 men and 47,785 women).”

The group are suggesting the release of the following categories of individuals, currently detained for non-serious and/or non-violent offences, should be prioritized:

  • Prisoners over the age of 60.
  • Sick prisoners, particularly those with underlying medical conditions (such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer).
  • Prisoners awaiting trial.
  • Prisoners sentenced to terms of up to two years.
  • Prisoners with one year or less left to serve.
  • Prisoners detained for immigration offences.
  • Pregnant women.
  • All others detained without sufficient legal basis.

Those released from detention facilities should undergo adequate medical screening to ensure they receive, if necessary, proper care and follow-up. They may also be subjected to appropriate non-custodial measures, in line with the principles outlined by the Standard Minimum Rules for Non-custodial Measures (the “Tokyo Rules”).

For those who remain in detention, the Department of Corrections must ensure that conditions conform to international standards, such as the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the “Nelson Mandela Rules”) and the Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the “Bangkok Rules”).

Protective equipment, such as face masks, clean water, soap, and all other items necessary to maintain personal health, hygiene, and cleanliness, should be made available to all prisoners.

The letter also asks that since all prison visits have been temporarily suspended, that alternative measures for communication between prisoners and family members.

Read the full letter here