Embassy frets over plight of UK inmates

Embassy frets over plight of UK inmates

Naras: Wants awareness of rights
Naras: Wants awareness of rights

The British embassy in Thailand is worried over the treatment of British inmates in Thai prisons, urging authorities to adopt adequate measures to protect detainees against human rights violations.

Corrections Department chief Naras Savestanan said yesterday the embassy wants his department to "be aware of inmates' rights, prevent suicides and escapes as well as ensure their quality of life". He did not go into detail about the embassy's concerns.

British authorities also want the department to ensure equal treatment of detainees from all nations.

According to the department, Britons are among 15,076 foreign inmates currently held in Thai prisons. Most of them, mainly from Southeast Asian countries, were jailed on drug charges.

Though Pol Col Naras admitted that last year prisons were overcrowded and short of staff, he insisted authorities had complied with international guidelines requiring good prison management, governing matters such as admission and search procedures and healthcare for inmates.

These standards are laid down in the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, known as the Mandela Rules, and the Bangkok Rules, a set of UN rules giving special care for female prisoners.

The British embassy introduced the department to another set of guidelines, named Standard Operating Procedures, or SOPs. Pol Col Naras believes SOPs can help reduce "disparity" in prisons in terms of how they ensure human rights standards.

They will benefit both prison officers and inmates, he said. Wardens will be kept in check to avoid power abuses, which will lead to less corruption, while detainees will be protected against maltreatment, including physical assault.

Officials are considering how to put SOPs into effect. "When the practices are adopted in Thai prisons, we have to consider to what extent they will be applied," Pol Col Naras said.

The answer was expected in a workshop, co-organised yesterday by the department and the British embassy, to review current practices in prisons as well as brainstorm ideas for drafting news manuals for wardens.

Prison officials need to keep up with new trends, or practices, adopted by the international community.

They must also think of how such measures are adopted in a Thai context, Pol Col Naras said.

The Thailand Institute of Justice, which advocates good treatment in prisons, said the Corrections Department is heading in the right direction.

It was working constantly to improve inmates' rights, TIJ adviser Nathee Jitsawang said.

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