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Thailand prison holding activists are driving high Covid rates

THAILAND’S prisons holding democracy activists are driving the country’s rising Covid-19 figures, official records showed today.

The authorities reported over 4,800 infections — the largest daily rise — with more than half found in two prisons in the capital Bangkok, according to Thailand’s Covid-19 taskforce.

Last month, the Department of Corrections said that only 10 new cases had been found at Bangkok’s remand prison, but the total jumped to 1,794 this week after protest leaders raised concerns.

An activist at the forefront of the country’s democracy movement announced that she had tested positive for coronavirus five days after being released on bail.

Department of Corrections official Weerakit Harnpariphan confirmed that another jailed activist, Panupong “Mike” Jadnok, had tested positive and been sent to the prison hospital.

The student leader was detained on multiple charges of royal defamation for his alleged role in the protest movement last year.

His lawyer, Noraset Nanongtoom, said that he would file a bail request for the activist, who has asthma.

“If the court does not allow an inquiry through video conferencing and does not grant bail, Mike will have to return to face a Covid-19 epidemic in prison,” Mr Nanongtoom said.

More than 80 pro-democracy activists are facing charges over last year’s protest movement, in which tens of thousands of protesters called for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and reforms to the monarchy.

Human Rights Watch’s Brad Adams said: “The Thai government needs to be forthright about the Covid-19 outbreaks in its prison system and how it intends to avoid disastrous consequences for those held.

“It seems they got caught sleeping at the switch.”

Thailand has one of the world’s highest incarceration rates.

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