CHIANGRAI TIMES – A large number of drug convicts incarcerated at Bangkok’s Bang Kwang maximum-security prison will soon be transferred to Khao Bin prison in Ratchaburi as part of an effort to clamp down on drug dealing inside jails, the Corrections Department said yesterday.
Inmates serving time for drug convictions at other major prisons including Bangkok’s Klong Prem and Central Correctional Institution for Drug Addicts, plus Klong Phai Prison in Nakhon Ratchasima, would be transferred to Khao Bin later, Kobkiat Kasiwiwat, the department’s deputy director-general, said.
All together, about 500 prisoners would be moved, including inmates at the main prisons in Ayutthaya, Rayong, Phitsanulok, Nakhon Si Thammarat and Chiang Mai.
Designated areas would also be established for drug convicts in all prisons to separate them from other inmates, who are frequently paid at present to act as drug couriers, or to smuggle in mobile phones and other contraband, Kobkiat said.
Guards at Khao Bin and other prisons will wear a new uniform free of metal badges and be required to check in for duty empty-handed and undergo a security procedure of the same standard deployed at airports, including metal-detectors. Kobkiat said prison guards typically bring bags of personal belongings and food with them to work, making inspections and control difficult.
Devices to jam mobile-phone signals have been installed at Khao Bin, said Kobkiat, adding that the use of satellite phones between inmates and drug dealers outside prisons was not much of a worry because satellite-phone users were required to register the devices. Tighter controls on the sale of unregistered SIM cards should be imposed, he said.
A Justice Ministry source said a recent proposal to build a prison for all drug convicts on an island was a good idea, but had been scrapped because of high logistical costs and the extra incentives and conditions that would be needed to recruit prison personnel and guards.
Meanwhile, in a series of arrests in Surat Thani, police apprehended 10 people including a former inmate of the provincial jail, who confessed to throwing a mobile phone over the prison wall for Bt10,000.
Suspect Somyos Srithep said he had met a group of drug convicts while serving his sentence. Each had paid him to throw a phone over the wall after he was released. Among those arrested with him was Phongsak Maneechote, who had an M-16 assault rifle and ammunition.
Meanwhile, a non-commissioned Army officer accused of aiding an Army major implicated in a large drug haul was in court custody yesterday. Sgt-Major Venus Srijai was attached to an engineering battalion based in the North. He is reportedly a close aide to Major Piyanat Ketjamras, who was implicated by Niphon Kanchart, currently in custody after crystal methamphetmine and amphetamine tablets worth Bt1 billion were found at a Bangkok home he was renting from an actress.
Separately in Chiang Mai, an Army anti-drug unit killed three foreign drug couriers in a gunfight yesterday in Mae Ai district, before seizing 5 kg of heroin. Some other couriers sustained injuries and retreated over the border into Burma.
A gunfight in the same area on January 20 saw two foreign couriers killed and resulted in the seizure of 100,000 amphetamine tablets and 8 kg of crystal meth.