28 Thai prison officials sacked

The new warden of Nakhon Si Thammarat Prison has vowed to restore morale among law-abiding prison officials so they can work as a team to clean up the prison.

The announcement by Surapol Kaewparadai followed the discovery of messages in cellphones seized from inmates that contained evidence of their involvement in criminal activity conducted outside the prison, including Bt100 million (S$4 million) worth of crystal meth deals, as well as trading in war weapons.

Following the recent seizure of 350 cellphones, police and related officials yesterday continued to gather evidence against inmates who deal drugs from behind bars, along with rogue prison officials. So far they have found information in SMS messages in the cellphones referring to money transactions, drug orders and drug-money transfer confirmations.

One message inquired about the possibility of paying a prison official Bt100,000 to smuggle 100 grams of crystal meth into the prison. MMS messages contained pictures taken by drug-dealing network members and sent to the inmates' cellphones about the sale outside the prison of Bt100 million worth of crystal meth and trafficking in war weapons including rifles, machine guns and pistols.

Nakhon Si Thammarat police chief Maj-General Ronnapong Saikaew said the Corrections Department should urgently act on the information obtained by police, and added that the information revealed that drug trades made as recently as Friday were ordered by someone inside Nakhon Si Thammarat Prison.

New warden Surapol, who officially starts working tomorrow, said he would first boost upstanding prison officials' morale to encourage them to join problem-solving efforts aimed at cleansing the prison of illicit activities and corruption. He said officials suspected of involvement would be moved outside the prison while police investigations and evidence-gathering was taking place, and would be dismissed from the civil service if found guilty.

Meanwhile, Deputy PM Chalerm Yoobamrung yesterday presided over a gathering of 20,000 people in Kalasin, who vowed not to get involved in drug activities. He said he would continue to crack down on narcotics-making gangs and set up special taskforce units at border provinces to stop drug smuggling into Thailand.

Meanwhile, Karreni rebel commander General Nakhaomuay (Zawlapoy), whose military base in Myanmar is opposite Tak's Pho Phra district, yesterday issued a statement saying he objected to the Thai authorities' blacklisting of drug dealers, saying it lacked evidence and tarnished his name, as well as that of the Myanmar government. He called on Thai authorities to remove his name from the list.

In related news, the director of Lamphun's Sirivej Hospital, Dr Chote Nisung, yesterday affirmed his hospital had ordered 350,000 pseudoephedrine tablets in January and February 2011 for use for the whole year, and didn't buy any more afterwards.

He said a criminal gang had used his and the hospital's names to buy some 900,000 tablets on nine occasions from May to August 2011.

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