Rally leaders resist Covid-19 testing, put others at risk

Rally leaders resist Covid-19 testing, put others at risk

Jatupat "Pai" Boonpattararaksa, Panupong "Mike" Jadnok and Piyarat "Toto" Chongthep are brought to the Criminal Court on March 11 for a hearing on their request to be detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)

The Justice Ministry has denied claims that prison warders threatened three detained anti-government rally leaders and said they resisted Covid-19 testing and ignored the safety of other inmates.

Wallop Nakbua, deputy permanent secretary for justice, said on Thursday that three detainees — Jatupat "Pai" Boonpattararaksa, Panupong "Mike" Jadnok and Piyarat "Toto" Chongthep — were moved from the Thon Buri Remand Prison to the Bangkok Remand Prison at 6.46pm on Monday as they requested.

Staff of the Bangkok Remand Prison then tried to isolate them from other inmates and test them for Covid-19 because the Thon Buri Remand Prison was in a risk zone.

Although the three had been quarantined for Covid-19 surveillance for seven days, that did not meet a set 14-day quarantine period and transmission risks remained with them, he said.

The three detainees resisted the isolation and the tests and insisted on staying with other anti-government rally leaders, including Arnon Nampa.

Mr Wallop said that nine other detainees who arrived at the Bangkok Remand Prison together with the three cooperated with the isolation and Covid-19 tests.

Prison staff, doctors and nurses tried for hours until after 2am on Tuesday to convince the three and other detained rally leaders, but to no avail.

"Officials cannot be lenient with Covid-19 tests. If other detainees learn that the tests are omitted and Covid-19 later spreads in the prison, there can be riots in jail like in other countries. We cannot put 3,000 other detainees at risk," Mr Wallop said.

He denied the accusation of Mr Arnon that prison officers harassed any rally leaders, saying the Corrections Department had evidence to prove that, including surveillance camera footage.

Mr Jatupat and Mr Panupong were detained from March 8 pending trial on many charges related to their protests at Thammasat University and Sanam Luang on Sept 19 and 20 last year. Mr Piyarat was detained on the same day for allegedly illegal assembly with weapons on March 6.

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