Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Death Row Thailand - empty!

Male prisoners condemned to death are detained in Bang Kwang prison, in segregated areas of Buildings 5 and 7, which for want of another name is often referred to as Death Row, even if the areas do not have a topological similarity or penitentiary identity with those in the US,home of death rows. Women prisoners condemned to death are held in the Women's Central Prison, Ladphrao, and are not segregated at all from other women prisoners. However, relatives know exactly where they are and when they may be visited. Until Bangkok was flooded. First, it was reported that 600 prisoners had been moved from the flooded area of Bang Kwang in 17 buses, to be distributed in prisons elsewhere in the country. Now, we are told that Bang Kwang, this massive old high security prison, has been emptied of all prisoners, and its prisoners are being held in unknown locations. This is no small matter, Bang Kwang is already an overcrowded prison, with 4,191 prisoners, 676 of them condemned to death and permanently shackled. Where are they? The website of the Corrections Department has provided a phone number and an email address to make inquiries during the flood emergency. Emails remain unanswered and the telephone rings without response. These 676 people are already vulnerable and under severe stress. They desperately need the support of relatives, lawyers, and others who relate to them. The feeling of being out of sight in unknown locations must be especially traumatic. One could quote all kinds of rules of prison practice requiring relatives to be notified of the place of imprisonment, but this crisis is beyond rules. There is a grave injustice in moving prisoners en mass to unknown locations and letting the days pass with no news release of what is happening to them.
In fact, the treatment of prisoners is not very different from the treatment of ordinary citizens throughout the country. God-like decisions are made on which areas will be flooded, which dams will release water, which water gates will open or close, when and where mysteriously planned walls of sandbags will rise and fall, without explanation to those who suffer the consequences. But, at least, the public fight back, ask questions, act against the flood barriers in their utter frustration.
Prisoners are treated as non-persons with no rights, chained, and restrained against every norm of human dignity.
Women prisoners live in even more inhumane conditions.
Where are they? Thai prisons are already among the most crowded in the world; undoubtedly prisoners are being forced into even more intolerable conditions. Are they receiving food and water? One does not dare to ask whether they receive adequate food and water, as these are hardly available to the ordinary citizen in the flooded areas.
What is happening? Let the prisoners telephone their relatives, friends, and supporters. Or at least make a news release on the issue.