The guarantee last week from Corrections Department chief Suchart Wonganantachai that his department will unshackle all prisoners serving maximum jail terms in prisons across the country within three months is a positive step and long overdue. On Wednesday, 563 prisoners had their shackles removed during a ceremony at Bang Khwang Central Prison which was presided over by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The unshackling process actually started in January with a group of inmates who were all considered "well behaved".
It's not clear why another three months are needed to end this barbaric practice across the country.
In Thailand it has long been a tradition to weld shackles on the ankles of serious offenders on the day of sentencing by the court of first instance even though their cases have yet to go through the appeals process. Formerly the shackles were removed only after a prisoner was executed, died of natural causes or their sentences were lessened or annulled by the court. The use of such shackles prevents prisoners from getting proper exercise and is an obstacle to them maintaining personal hygiene. Cuts and sores caused by the shackles can easily become infected, posing a serious health threat.