Arnon questions prison's nighttime Covid testing

Arnon questions prison's nighttime Covid testing

Ratsadon co-leader admits fear for his life

Arrested anti-government protest leader Anon Numpa shows a three-finger salute as he arrives at the criminal court to face lese majeste charges in Bangkok on Monday. (Reuters photo)
Arrested anti-government protest leader Anon Numpa shows a three-finger salute as he arrives at the criminal court to face lese majeste charges in Bangkok on Monday. (Reuters photo)

The Corrections Department said on Tuesday afternoon that its officials at Bangkok Remand Prison had performed their duties properly after a Ratsadon co-leader found intimidating their attempts to test them for Covid-19 at night.

The explanations came after Arnon Nampa, a Ratsadon co-leader and human rights lawyer detained at the prison, wrote a petition to the Criminal Court, questioning the need to conduct the tests on new detainees, including those of the Ratsadon group, late at night.

Mr Arnon reportedly wrote the petition in a courtroom on Tuesday morning while he was temporarily released to perform his lawyer duty in a pending case.   

Earlier, he wrote a note, later posted on his Facebook allegedly by his friend, claiming that prison officials tried four times late Monday night to the early hours of Tuesday to take Jatupat “Pai” Boontararaksa and Panupong “Mike” Jadnok, co-leaders of the Ratsadon group from their wing.

The two had been transferred from Thon Buri Central Prison on Monday evening.

The attempts to conduct the tests were made at 9.30pm and 11.45pm on Monday, and fifteen minutes after midnight and 2.15am on Tuesday, he wrote.

The number of officials arriving each time increased to up to 20, and men in dark blue uniforms with no name tags accompanied them during the last two, according to Mr Arnon.

They wanted to take Covid-19 tests on them but the three suspects declined and told them they would cooperate in the morning.

Since the incident took place during the wee hours, Mr Arnon wrote that he found it suspicious. “It is not normal to take detainees outside their wings after midnight,” he wrote.

“Rumours have already spread that men will be sent in to hurt or kill us in prison. We fear we would die like Mor Yong and others. I couldn’t sleep last night. Please save us,” he wrote.

He was referring to Suriyan "Mor Yong" Sucharitpolwong, a fortune-teller and lese majeste suspect who died in army custody in 2015, allegedly of blood infection.

Mr Arnon also asked the warden to explain the reasons and disclose footage from all closed-circuit cameras.

The department explained that the three Ratsadon detainees were brought from Thon Buri Remand Prison to Bangkok Remand Prison at 6.40pm on Monday.

They were Mr Jatupat, Mr Panupong and Piyarat “Toto” Chongthep, leader of the group’s WeVo guards.

After arriving, they had a physical checkup and the three men were put in a cell on the entry wing, together with nine other detainees, to be quarantined as was the standard measure of the department.

At 11pm, Dr Veerakit Harnparipan, deputy director-general of the department, together with a medical team, conducted tests in the cell with 16 detainees, but only nine cooperated.

The detainees who declined to be tested included the three transferred Ratsadon co-leaders, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Mr Anon, who had been in court earlier on Monday and needed to be quarantined again.

As a result, prison officials had to separate them from those who agreed to be tested as was the protocol.

Following the incident, Mr Arnon’s family again sought bail for his temporary release.  

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