'Justin' infection signals new cluster

'Justin' infection signals new cluster

Testing may extend to court where cellmate of pro-democracy activist attended bail hearing

Bangkok Remand Prison could become a new Covid cluster after a case was confirmed on Saturday in a detained pro-democracy protester. (Bangkok Post file photo)
Bangkok Remand Prison could become a new Covid cluster after a case was confirmed on Saturday in a detained pro-democracy protester. (Bangkok Post file photo)

The confirmed case of a detained pro-democracy protester has sparked concerns about a new Covid-19 cluster at Bangkok Remand Prison that may also involve the Criminal Court.

The news first came from Sureerat Chiwarak, the mother of protest co-leader Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak. She said she had been told by a corrections official that Chukiat Sangwong, known as “Justin” for his penchant for the signature style of Canadian singer Justin Bieber, had Covid.

Mr Parit was in the same cell as Mr Chukiat, as were two other key protesters — Chai-amorn Kaewwiboonpan, aka Ammy The Bottom Blues, and Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boontararaksa.

Mr Jatupat was taken to the Criminal Court on Friday to hear the decision on his bail request. He was later allowed bail and went home. If he is found to also be infected, testing and quarantine measures may have to be extended to the courthouse.

Thawatchai Chaiwat, deputy director-general of the Corrections Department, told ThaiPBS on Saturday afternoon that Mr Chukiat had indeed tested positive and was taken to the department’s hospital on the prison grounds.

He said 33 people — 26 of them detainees — were identified to be at risk and tested.

The department is also preparing to set up a field hospital on the prison grounds for less severe cases.

Mrs Sureerat said she was worried about her son. Mr Parit had been on a hunger strike since March 15 and his health has recently deteriorated. He also has had lung problems, she said.

Mr Parit is one of 22 key protest figures who face numerous charges, including lese majeste, linked to an anti-government rally at Sanam Luang on Sept 19 and 20 last year.  To date, only three of them have been granted bail. Mr Chukiat has been behind bars for 33 days and Mr Parit has been detained for 74 days so far.

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