Prison officials sacked after contraband blitz

April 28, 2012

A total of 28 prison wardens and officials found involved in bringing in illicit drugs, mobile phones and other prohibited items into prisons have been dismissed over the past six months.

The Corrections Department has seized 9,513 mobile phones and smartphones, 5,834 Sim cards, 58,991 methamphetamine pills, and about 6,577 grammes of crystal meth, or ya ice, in prison cells across the country during the six-month crackdown, said department chief Suchart Wong-anantchai.

The department has so far fired 28 prison officials and wardens found to have colluded with inmates to smuggle in illicit drugs, communication devices and other banned items, he said.

He threatened to take drastic action against rogue prison officials who refused to turn over a new leaf. They would face both criminal and disciplinary action as well as have their assets seized, he said. He admitted there was a shortage of devices to detect banned items sent by relatives of inmates or visitors in the form of gifts.

Only nine maximum security prisons equipped with high-tech security equipment have not allowed relatives to bring in any items for inmates, he said during a press conference yesterday.

A source said some inmates had used bottles of oyster oil, bars of soap and canes to hide smuggled mobile phones.

Some seized mobile phones were found to be satellite phones that made it hard for cell phone jammers to block communication. Mobile phones fitted with solar cells were also smuggled into the prisons, the source said.

Montri Bunnag, an official at the Central Correctional Institution for Drug Addicts, yesterday said many mobile phones and smartphones had been smuggled into the facility, which was hit by last year’s flooding.

The 60 smuggled communication devices, which could fetch up to 10 million baht, had been hidden in cement bags and other construction materials.

An initial investigation found an engineer hired to repair the flood-hit facility had allegedly smuggled in those smartphones with internet access, said Mr Montri, adding the engineer was found to have close ties with a convicted drug trafficker.

A probe into the smuggling of mobile phones into Nakhon Si Thammarat prison found that a major drug inmate had asked members of his drug network outside the prison to establish close ties with owners of land plots near the prison, a source at the Corrections Department said.

If any land owner had a daughter, a drug member would get married to the woman by offering a dowry of 100,000-300,000 baht.

After the marriage, the gang would use the land plot as a site to throw mobile phones over the prison wall, the source said.

A Corrections Department official said hitman inmate Chusak Numluemkhid, alias “Sua Muek” had been hired by a major drug gang to collect debts from drug dealers outside prison.

Chusak, recently transferred from Chumphon jail to the Nakhon Si Thammarat prison, reportedly used members of his network outside the prison to collect debts.

He reportedly has about 10 million baht kept outside the jail.

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