BANGKOK: Thailand is considering an expansion of prison space as it arrests more political prisoners, the justice minister said on Wednesday (Mar 10).
Somsak Thepsuthin said Bangkok Remand Prison and Klong Prem Central Prison, where most recently detained political prisoners are held, become congested when families and supporters come to visit.
“Therefore, we are discussing finding a larger area that can accommodate more people for everyone’s convenience,” he told reporters. He denied speculation that a separate new prison would be built for political prisoners.
“Everyone should be treated equally,” Somsak said.
The legal aid group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights recently said at least 382 people, including 13 minors, are facing charges related to political demonstrations and expressing political views from July 2020 through the end of last month.
A student-led pro-democracy movement took hold last year that is calling for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his government to step down, the constitution to be amended to make it more democratic and the monarchy to be reformed to make it more accountable.
When the protests became more critical of the monarchy, the authorities stepped up their prosecutions of activists. More than 60 of the people cited by the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have been charged under the lese majeste law, which makes defaming the monarchy punishable by up to 15 years in prison per incident.
On Wednesday, the Criminal Court sentenced a 22-year-old man to four and a half years in prison for violating the Computer Crime Act by creating several accounts on Facebook on which he allegedly made nine posts criticising the monarch in April 2020.
The man, a waiter, had his sentence halved from the original nine years because he pleaded guilty, a standard practice in Thai courts.
The Department of Corrections website says Bangkok Remand Prison holds 3,195 prisoners, while Klong Prem Central Prison accommodates 7,009.