Thailand

Thai activist sent back to jail for writing about prison conditions

Ekachai Hongkangwan charged with violating Computer Crime Act by 'disseminating obscene material online'

UCA News reporter, Bangkok

Updated: April 22, 2022 05:07 AM GMT

Ekachai Hongkangwan detailed the overcrowding and unsanitary conditions in a Bangkok prison. (Photo: Khaosod)

A Thai activist who wrote about his experiences in a Bangkok prison after being convicted of royal defamation has been sentenced to another year in prison by a court.

Ekachai Hongkangwan, a 47-year-old pro-democracy activist who was out on bail after a spell in prison, has been sent back to jail without parole because in a series of posts online he wrote an expose of life inside Bangkok Remand Prison.

In his posts he detailed the chronic overcrowding and unsanitary conditions in addition to detailing how inmates conducted sexual affairs among themselves despite a lack of privacy.

Ekachai has been detained again after being charged with violating the draconian Computer Crime Act by disseminating obscene material online.

The activist denied the charge, saying his posts on social media were not meant to titillate people but to highlight prison conditions in Thailand so that they could be improved.

Thai correctional facilities have long been notorious for their inhumane conditions, with inmates packed into small cells where they languish in overcrowded prisons that lack many basic creature comforts.

Inmates that are ill, injured, elderly or have mental health issues are often kept with the general population. This type of arrangement is cruel and underserves those who need supplemental care

Overcrowding does not just impact the sleeping arrangements in the Thai prisons. It also impacts the capacity to separate inmates in a way that appropriately meets their needs, explains iLaw, a Thai group that documents rights violations in the country.

Inmates that are ill, injured, elderly or have mental health issues are often kept with the general population. This type of arrangement is cruel and underserves those who need supplemental care.

Disease and infection spread quickly and easily in Thai prisons because of the inhumane combination of extremely confined living arrangements and the inability to maintain separate housing for sick inmates because of overcrowding, as well as insufficient medical access for prisoners.  

Over the past year, several pro-democracy activists jailed for royal defamation and other alleged crimes have written about their experiences in Thai prisons.

Last year Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, 23, a university student and pro-democracy activist who was held in pretrial detention on charges of royal defamation at a women's prison in Bangkok, revealed that numerous inmates had contracted Covid-19 because of the overcrowding and unsanitary conditions.

Following the revelation, Thai authorities admitted that thousands of inmates at various prisons had come down with the virus.

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