The air was heavy with anticipation as Thailand’s former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, disembarked from his flight at Don Mueang airport back on August 22nd. The crowd erupted in cheers, marking an end to his years of self-imposed exile. But amidst the celebrations, controversy later began to brew over his health status following his months-long incarceration.
The Corrections Department found itself center stage when they released a statement on Monday. They sternly declared that they were secretive about the health statuses and other confidential medical data of their inmates, with the caveat being the consent of the individual in question. The declaration was a response to the persistent demand for updated information on Thaksin’s health condition, who has been confined at the Police General Hospital since his sentencing over a month ago.
Public sentiment was divided, with some hypothesizing that Thaksin was being afforded special consideration which allowed him to circumvent the conventional prison experience. Having been condemned to serve a year-long sentence, this rumored privilege sparked fervent discussions.
Paetongtarn, Thaksin’s daughter, disclosed last week that he had undergone surgery in Thailand. However, she remained tight-lipped about further details, leaving the public to speculate and imagine the full scope of his situation.
The Corrections Department maintained its austere approach regarding the non-disclosure policy. In their Monday statement, they explained that their conformity to human rights protections and relevant regulations necessitated treating health information with utmost confidentiality. Only the inmate’s consent could override this rule, which was in concordance with the Nelson Mandela Rules advocated by the United Nations to safeguard the rights of prisoners.
The department further revealed its care for a massive influx of 276,686 inmates in just the 2023 fiscal year, with an overwhelming 30,000 requiring external medical care. A staggering figure of about 140 inmates had spent over a month’s time under medical supervision.
In the eye of the brewing storm was Srisuwan Janya, a political activist often known by his persistent petitions. Srisuwan’s pleas echoed the demand of those questioning the department, urging them to release an official report. The report—detaining daily events, meals, visits and so on—was an official document maintained by corrections officials standing guard over Thaksin’s hospital stay.
“This isn’t about Thaksin’s medical state,” Janya insisted. According to him, the document was within his rights to view under the Official Information Act of 1997. He expressed his intent to pursue the matter with the Official Information Board, even stating his willingness to take the issue further if necessary.
“If the document is being hidden from public view, I am prepared to petition for the Administrative Court to command its disclosure,” he promised, demonstrating his staunch resolution to get to the bottom of the matter.