Although 470 cellphones used by inmates have been retrieved in the past month from multiple searches of the Nakhon Si Thammarat provincial prison, 11 more were discovered yesterday hidden in plastic water bottles, along with crystalline meth dissolved in soft drinks.
A clear type of 'ice' flakes was mixed with water and injected into beverage cans that were neatly resealed. Once smuggled into the prison or received by inmates, the flakes would be sun-dried and ground into a powder for reuse or resale to buyers inside the prison.
Suraphol Kaewparadai, the new chief warden, said he believes that many phones remain hidden inside the prison, possibly buried or stashed in small corners and holes in buildings, and the searches would continue.
After 39 more handsets were found in three concrete blocks, all 230 blocks brought in for a construction project will be confiscated and inspected.
All food supplies in all types of containers that are delivered, even for guards, will be inspected and weighed to ensure they contain nothing else.
Senior warden Thaworn Santajit said this procedure would be strictly followed.
The people who brought in the 39 mobile phones have been identified. Some are prison guards suspended from work and others are still at work, Pol Lt Colonel Kornkoj Chumsri said.
"They were involved in the construction project, the purchase of the bricks and other materials, and we know who they are," he said.
After 13 guards were transferred out for involvement in various irregularities, the 178 remaining on duty have been complaining about the extra workload and demanding the immediate recruitment of guards from other prisons to help them.
The Corrections Department is requesting 450 Border Patrol police to help with the burden at nine prisons including the one at Nakhon Si Thammarat.
The extra men will be available in two weeks, said Kobkiat Kasiwiwat, deputy director-general of the department, after meeting with Border Police commanders.
Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung, who is in charge of the war on drugs, insisted that a Karen senior officer, Maj General Na Kha Muay, was involved in illicit drug production and trafficking and urged him to turn himself in to Thai authorities.
Na Kha Muay had recently posted a statement in English on a website denying he was involved in the drug trade and challenging Chalerm to produce evidence against him.