Transfer Immigration Detention to Department of Correction

I am registered with the judiciary of Thailand as a translator between Danish and Thai. A few times a year I am requested to translate in court hearings involving a Danish citizen. That has brought me in closer contact with the judicial system and the penal systems in Thailand than most other expats.

It began back in 2006, when I was thrown into a case about a Danish man, James Christensen, who was accused of attempted murder by arsoning. As part of the case, which took eight years, the prison in Langsuan north of Suratthani invited me in to see the conditions inside and although different from a Nordic prison I got a positive impression.

Still, I have always steered well clear of writing about conditions in Thai prisons. I find it cheap to point out the obvious differences between our Nordic and the Thai penal system. Any society needs a way to punish a citizen and the saying that the level of a country’s civilization can be judged by entering its prisons is only true to a certain extent.

Then recently I came in close contact with two Danes – again starting out as the interpreter – who were imprisoned first in a regular Thai prison under the Department of Correction and then secondly in a detention center under the Immigration Bureau of the Royal Thai Police. Their recollections of what they witnessed while detained here made me search for others who have told about their experiences.

These authors and other victims of detention interviewed by the media are often accused of exaggerating their experience for the sake of selling their books or getting sympathy, but I have come to believe more and more that their description of the conditions in the two detention centers in Bangkok, where they spent time, reflects the truth.

While the Kingdom surely grapples with other more serious systemic problems, I still dare to wish that someone somewhere in Thailand’s Ministry of Interior would look into the possibility of wrestling these immigration detention centers out from the grip of the police and transfer them to the Department of Correction where their handling of prisoners reflects much better the level of civilization in the Thai society.

About Gregers Møller

Editor-in-Chief • ScandAsia Publishing Co., Ltd. • Bangkok, Thailand

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