Thailand’s King has issued a royal command pardoning some 30,000 prisoners to mark his 84th birthday. The decree, which was signed by His Majesty, was published in the Royal Gazette. His Majesty said the convicts should be given a second chance. Those receiving a royal pardon are inmates who displayed good conduct, those convicted of minor offences, inmates with ailments or disabilities, and those under 20 years of age and over 60. Under the decree, jail sentences for some prisoners have also been commuted.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra this morning presided over the ceremony to release inmates at Klong Prem Prison. A similar ceremony was held at other prisons across the country. In Bangkok and surrounding provinces a total of 2,766 prisoners were released today. A further 9,234 prisoners were released in other provinces.
The prisoners released today were guilty of minor offences and had less than one year to serve. They also had good prison records. In addition some elderly and disabled prisoners were also released. In total, about 30,000 inmates are to be released nationwide under the royal pardon. The second round is due to take place on 18 December when another 10,000 will be released.
The short ceremony at Klong Prem this morning, started with PM Yingluck paying respect to a portrait of His Majesty the King. During a speech, the prime minister urged inmates freed today to be grateful for the King’s great mercy and to apply the King’s self sufficiency economy philosophy to their everyday lives. This was then followed by songs praising His Majesty and then finishing with the Royal Anthem. A monk then blessed the prisoners as they left to head home.
Under the royal pardon decree, over 10,000 other convicts are receiving reduced punishment. Those who benefit from reduced punishment but not being released this time, are Dr Wisut Boonkasemsanti, a gynaecologist who dismembered his wife, and former deputy police commissioner Chalor Kerdthes, sentenced for murdering the wife and son of a Thai jewellery businessman. Both were originally sentenced to death but their jail terms have been reduced to 21 years and 50 years respectively under this year’s royal pardon.
Serm Sakhonrat, a former medical student who murdered and butchered his girlfriend, will be freed on 18th December after serving a reduced prison sentence of eight years. His prison term was reduced five times. He was initially sentenced to life imprisonment. United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship chairwoman Thida Tavornseth said 20 out of 94 detained red-shirts will be released under the royal pardon this year.
After the blessing by the monk the ex-prisoners were quickly reunited with their relations. Some openly cried as the mass pardon was unexpected. Many quickly changed out of their dark blue prison uniform and put on shirts brought by their relations. Some didn’t have any relations come to pick them up, but the Corrections Department had given these prisoners 500 Baht allowance for them to return home if their lived upcountry. I noticed that some of them headed straight to shops opposite the prison where they were seen drinking beer. I am sure many dreamed of doing just this while in prison.
Main Sources: Bangkok Post, Nation & MCOT