Army allows jail access after two deaths
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Army allows jail access after two deaths

Corrections chief counters torture claims

Fortune teller Suriyan
Fortune teller Suriyan "Mor Yong" Sucharitpolwong (left) and Pol Maj Prakrom Warunprapa both died in the special prison housed inside the 11th Army Circle's Bangkok base, not long after the announcement of their arrests. (Photos by Apichart Jinakul)

Corrections Department chief Witthaya Suriyawong allowed media access on Thursday to the jail in the compound of the 11th Military Circle to counter claims of torture following the death of two key detainees.

Reporters were shown detention rooms including the ones where lese majeste suspect Pol Maj Prakrom Warunprapa allegedly hanged himself  in October and another which housed suspect Suriyan "Mor Yong" Sucharitpolwong who allegedly died from a blood infection last month. After their deaths, the jail now houses seven inmates.

They comprise two key suspects in the Erawan shrine bombing on Aug 17 -- Bilal Mohammed and Yusufu Mieraili -- and five lese majeste suspects, Wanlop Buchan, Natthaphon Na Wanle, Pol Sgt Maj Prathin Chanket, Phahiran Kongkham and Chirawong Thewasin.

Turning his back to passers-by outside his room, Mr Chirawong sat quietly with his head down when reporters arrived at his sleeping quarters, which were equipped with basic facilities.

Not far from his bed is a bathroom which has no door so security personnel can keep a close watch on him.

The door to the cell is opened only when the detainee makes a request.

"This jail is more comfortable than other facilities because there are not many inmates, and they are held separately. Each bedroom has a toilet," Mr Witthaya said as he explained the facilities of the jail, also known as Khwaeng Nakhon Chaisi temporary prison.

The prison is on Rama V Road in Dusit district.

Each day wardens accompany detainees for a one-hour exercise session.

The inmates are held there only temporarily and will be moved to ordinary prisons once their interrogations finish and their cases are forwarded to prosecutors, Mr Witthaya said.    

Reporters were then led to the 6th Company where the second detention facility is located. The facility where Pol Sgt Maj Prathin is detained is surrounded by barbed wire.

Pol Sgt Maj Prathin's detention room used to house Pol Maj Prakrom until he was found dead, hanging from the cell's bars.

One prison officer said Pol Maj Prakrom took his own life in a corner of the cell where could not be seen from the outside.

That night when a warder shouted to Pol Maj Prakrom, he did not respond.

He rushed to get the key to unlock the cell which is when he found the man's body.

Suriyan, meanwhile, was found gravely ill in a detention room at the 1st Company before he was rushed to a hospital where he was later pronounced dead. The military says he was already ill when taken into custody. This cell is now occupied by Mr Chirawong.

In the third detention facility at the 5th Company, Mr Bilal and Mr Phahiran are detained together. They were assigned to sleep near one another.

The two are detained in the same cell because there is not enough space.

Boonyarak Boonyathikarn, head of the temporary prison, said the Corrections Department had recently approved 500,000 baht to fund an expansion of the jail. Six more detention rooms will be built, bringing the total to 11 rooms, he said. 

Also Thursday, Human Rights Watch urged Thailand to promptly investigate the alleged torture of suspects being held in military prisons and transfer detainees to civilian jails.

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