Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Drug-dealing Prisoners to Get Closer Monitoring

The Irrawaddy News

To suppress prisoners who continue to operate drug networks while behind bars, Thai authorities will establish special zones for drug-related detainees who will undergo closer monitoring.

Sompong Amornwiwat, the Thai minister of justice, told prison officials in Bangkok that the ministry plan to create special prison zones for selected drug-related detainees, who currently make up a total 60 percent of all prisoners.

About 1,000 drug detainees will be separated from other cases to prevent them from dealing drugs outside the prison and high-technology tools will be used to monitor this zone.” Sompong said, according to a report on the Thai government’s Web site.

The ministry has plans to tighten restrictions in eight high-security prison zones.

In one of the latest examples, in April, crystal methamphetamine, or Ya Ice, was discovered hidden inside the cover of a pocket book sent to Lueng Pak Lun, a Korean convicted of drug offences, in Zone 10 of the Khlong Prem Central Prison in Bangkok. Prison officials suspect the drug was ordered by mobile phone and delivered through contacts inside and outside the prison.

The Corrections Department has started blocking mobile phone signals at three maximum security prisons to cut off contact between prisoners and drug dealers on the outside, after officials found a series of attempts to contact dealers and bring drugs into the prisons.

The signal-blocking devices are at Khlong Prem Central Prison, Bang Kwang Prison and the Central Correctional Institute for Drug Addicts, which house high-profile drug traffickers. Drugs may still enter the prisons. Officials admit it is difficult to screen items sent to prisoners by mail. Narcotics have been discovered sealed inside cups of yoghurt, bottles of lotion and other items.

There have been complaints from foreign prisoners who have protested that parcels addressed to them had been rifled through. Some cases have ended in lawsuits against prison staff and wardens. Prisons normally must obtain a warrant from a court to search a prisoner’s mail.

The Justice Ministry, however, is now seeking a change in the law that would allow a prison commander to decide whether to authorize a mail search.

In early July, authorities arrested a group of drug traffickers and seized more than 170,000 methamphetamine tablets sent from Chiang Mai under the direction of detained Thai and Burmese drug dealers in Zone 10 of the Central Correctional Institute for Drug Addicts.

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