Coronavirus fears spark Thailand prison riot

Prisoners broke furniture and smashed windows during the riot at Buriram prison in north-east Thailand on March 29, 2020. Some convicts escaped and seven have been arrested.
Prisoners broke furniture and smashed windows during the riot at Buriram prison in north-east Thailand on March 29, 2020. Some convicts escaped and seven have been arrested.PHOTOS: AFP

BANGKOK (AFP) - Dozens of prisoners broke furniture and smashed windows during a riot in a Thai jail on Sunday (March 29) sparked by fears of a coronavirus outbreak in the facility.

During the violence, some convicts escaped from the Buriram prison, where 2,000 were held, the justice ministry said. Seven have been arrested.

Local media showed footage of black smoke billowing from the facility in the country's north-east.

"There was a group of prisoners trying to escape and were creating chaos... which included burning down some facilities inside," said Mr Narat Sawetana, director-general of the Corrections Department.

Mental health workers have been deployed to talk to prisoners "after some rumours were spread" about a Covid-19 outbreak in the prison, Major-General Akkaradej Pimonsri said.

"The situation is under control," he added.

Thailand has recorded 1,388 cases of the coronavirus, including seven deaths.

At least two prisoners in the country have caught the highly contagious virus.

In a bid to prevent an outbreak in jails, the authorities have banned visitors and are quarantining new inmates for 14 days.

 

Similar panic over the coronavirus sparked a prison riot in the Colombian capital of Bogota last Sunday that killed 23 inmates.