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Annual report paints bleak picture of Thai prison conditions

Prison conditions in Thailand remained well below international standards in 2022, FIDH and the Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) said in their annual prison report released today (9 March). 

(Photo from FIDH)

The 65-page report covers developments, trends, facts, and figures related to the Thai prison system from 1 January to 31 December 2022. The findings of the report show that in the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak in the Thai prison system in 2021, the authorities made little progress in implementing lessons learned from the pandemic to improve detention conditions and guarantee the well-being of inmates in 2022.

“Former prisoners described inhuman and degrading treatment to which no inmate should be subjected. While authorities have taken some positive steps to address some blatantly abusive situations, the overall picture of prison conditions remain bleak. The Thai government must increase its efforts to make prison conditions consistent with international standards and the country’s human rights obligations,” said FIDH Secretary-General Adilur Rahman Khan.

Areas where prisoners faced ongoing challenges included: crowded and inadequate conditions of accommodation; cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment and punishment; unsanitary conditions; extremely poor quality of food and drinking water; inadequate access to healthcare; exploitative work; limited contacts with the outside world; lack of recreational and rehabilitative activities; and ineffective complaint procedures. In addition, independent human rights organizations’ access to prisons to monitor conditions continued to be unduly restricted.

Among the few positive developments in 2022, authorities pledged to adopt measures to eradicate abusive labor practices in prisons across the country. For example, the Department of Corrections (DoC) ordered an end to the contracts for the use of prison labor for the production of fishing nets.

Another positive development was the decrease of the total prison population by 6%, which was part of a downward trend that started in 2019. However, overcrowding continued to plague prisons, with 106 of Thailand’s 143 facilities operating above their official capacity. The overwhelming majority (almost 80%) of prisoners remained incarcerated for drug-related offenses. Individuals held in pre-trial detention continued to account for a significant share (nearly 20%) of prisoners. In addition, the number of prisoners under death sentence increased by 14%, reversing a three-year downward trend.

As the COVID-19 situation eased across prisons nationwide, many measures that had been introduced to prevent the spread of the virus were relaxed or discontinued. Regrettably, among the discontinued measures were several early release schemes aimed at reducing the number of prisoners.

Now in its second edition, FIDH’s and UCL’s annual prison report is the only independent and comprehensive assessment of prison conditions in Thailand. The report makes numerous practical recommendations for the improvement of prison conditions in accordance with relevant international standards.

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