UNODC Goodwill Ambassador Thai Princess Visits Women’s Prison to Promote Reforms

 | Thu 25 Jan 2018 09:35 ICT

Press release from United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific

CityNews – On January 25th, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Goodwill Ambassador on the Rule of Law for Southeast Asia, Her Royal Highness Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol, UNODC Regional Representative Jeremy Douglas, Executive Director of the Thailand Institute of Justice, Kittipong Kittiyarak, senior diplomats, and regional prison managers visited a women’s prison in the northern Thailand, meeting inmates, reviewing facilities and discussing criminal justice reforms.

The visit was arranged to highlight the initiatives of the government of Thailand and the Kamlangjai or Inspire Project to improve conditions in Thai prisons, starting with recent pilot projects to assist those incarcerated in the Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institute.

In Thailand, the vast majority of women inmates are serving sentences for drug related offences. Women are vulnerable to particular social factors including discrimination and exploitation that lead them to involvement in crimes, and to a prison system that does not take into account their needs because it was never designed with those needs in mind.

Recognising a different approach was necessary, Princess Mahidol and the Government of Thailand has worked with UNODC during the development of the Bangkok Rules on the Treatment of Women Prisoners that were adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2010.

In remarks made at the start of the visit, Princess Mahidol stated, “as UNODC Goodwill Ambassador in Southeast Asia I hope to promote understanding that the rule of law in the region is not only about prosecuting and punishing offenders. We have to ensure fair and equitable justice, understand the reasons people are ending up in prison, and we also have to address the specific needs of women in prison like those we are meeting here today. They have incredible potential to contribute to society and communities, and we need to support them to do so.”

The vocational training centre inside the prison has recently been expanded and improved to help prepare inmates for life outside prison by equipping them with skills to make a living once they leave. Training and certificates are offered in massage and spa treatments, weaving and textiles, cooking, and in garment production and alterations – trades that enable a viable income.

Jeremy Douglas, UNODC Regional Representative, noted “the rehab and health facilities and programmes we have seen here in the Chiang Mai women’s prison are something we would encourage country wide. They are making a real difference.”

Dr. Kittipong Kittiyarak, Executive Director of TIJ, commented “it is vital to the wellbeing of these women, and their families and communities, that the next step for them will be an opportunity that takes them out of the circumstances that led them to be imprisoned in the first place. The success of this programme will be measured in lower recidivism rates, but more importantly in lives transformed.”

Citylife spent the morning with the group and will conduct follow up interviews to bring you a more comprehensive look at reforms in Thai prisons in the March edition.