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Abusive drug rehab centre shut down

KANCHANABURI: The Department of Medical Services has ordered the immediate closure of a drug rehabilitation centre at a local temple following complaints of violent abuse and extortion of addicts admitted for treatment there.

By Bangkok Post

Saturday 25 September 2021, 08:30AM

Sila Naklor, headman of Moo 10 village in Dan Makhamtia district, said he received an urgent letter from Manus Potaporn, deputy director-general of the department, on Thursday night (Sept 23), reports the Bangkok Post.

It ordered the immediate closure of the rehab centre at Wat Tha Phu Rat Bamrung.

The letter, signed on Thursday, said the rehab facility failed to meet the criteria for a healthcare centre under the Narcotic Drugs Act.

In addition, its operating licence automatically expired on the death of the licensee. The temple’s abbot died on Monday.  

The drug rehab centre at Wat Tha Phu Rat Bamrung made headlines when a popular shaman and a lawyer took reporters there on Monday to expose the conditions, which they said included a starvation diet, torture, beatings and extortion of relatives.

There were more than 200 men crowded into a single room with only two bathrooms. 

The abbot of the temple died 15 minutes before it was raided on Monday. Soldiers released the patients, who were taken to hospitals.

The two complainants alleged the rehab centre was run by a criminal network involving police and government officials.

Temple rehab a ‘site for torture’

Jeeraphan Phetkhao, known as Mor Pla (Shaman Pla), and lawyer Paisarn Ruangrit asked Crime Sup­pression Di-vision (CSD) police to take action against the drug rehabilitation centre, the Bangkok Post noted in its report earlier this week.

Mor Pla and lawyer Mr Paisarn led 10 representatives of more than 200 men freed by soldiers from Wat Tha Phu Rat Bamrung’s drug rehabilitation facility in Dan Makhamtia district, to file a complaint with Pol Lt Col Phanuwat Chantrakul, investigation chief at CSD sub-division 5.

Soldiers entered the rehab centre on Monday (Sept 20). They found the men crammed into a single room in the temple grounds. The men had been sent to the drug rehabilitation centre for treatment, some by their parents and others by police.

A total of 216 men were freed by soldiers and taken by trucks to a field hospital at the army’s Khao Chon Kai training camp in Muang district on Monday night.

Mr Jeeraphan said living conditions at the facility were atrocious. It was more like hell on earth than a drug rehabilitation centre. The shaman and the lawyer also took reporters to inspect the facility on Monday.

Kanchanaburi Governor Jeerakiart Phumsawat arrived at the temple after Mr Jeeraphan phoned him to report on the conditions there.

Mr Jeeraphan said he had earlier filed a report at Dan Makhamtia police station, but officers there didn’t seem interested.

He felt “unsafe”, and decided to ask the CSD for help, he said.

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The rescue operation was streamed live on Mr Jeeraphan’s Facebook page, and drew a shocked response.

It showed hundreds of addicts living in extremely poor, crowded conditions inside a locked room with only two bathrooms.

Media reported the addicts were there both voluntarily and as a condition of their release by police.

Some also had been committed by their family, while others were offered rehab at the temple in exchange for a clean criminal record.

All had to pay B12,000 each once they agreed to treatment, and an additional B2,000 a month for food.

The treatment came under a 12-month contract. Another B10,000 was demanded for early release or breach of contract.

“In my view, there is an organised gang involving police, temple and rescue workers,” Mr Jeeraphan said.

“It’s unusual that police from Kalasin and Roi Et provinces took so many people involved in illicit drugs to this temple for rehabilitation. From some villages, 10 or more people were sent there.

“I do hope national police chief Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk will watch TV news coverage of this facility and investigate it. If any bad fingers are found, will he [the police chief] cut them off? If not, he will cut his own fingers, won’t he?”’ the shaman said.

Mr Paisarn echoed the shaman’s remark about an organised gang operating at the centre.

The lawyer said what he witnessed was little different from human trafficking, starting with procuring people, sending them to the facility, demanding money, and torturing and beating them.

Two or three people had reportedly died while “in treatment”, and no autopsies were performed, Mr Paisarn said.

Some of the people sent here were not drug addicts but people charged with other offences such as brawling and physical assault. They were taken there by police who told the offenders’ parents that charges would be dropped if they entered treatment for a year at the rehab centre. The parents had to pay the fees, Mr Paisarn said.

One of those rescued said he was delighted to be out of the place. He had been in “rehabilitation” at the temple for nine months. Before being sent there he was given a lung X-ray. There were no blood tests for drug use, he said. The man’s name was withheld.

He said life at the rehab centre was like being in jail.

He was given one meal a day and had to get up at 3.45am to pray. If his prayers were not loud enough, or he failed to satis­fy those in charge in some other way, they would refuse him his food.

He said he was given only one meal a day even though his parents sent money to the temple every month for his rations.

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Kurt | 25 September 2021 - 10:39:25

Why I am not surprised that this can happen in Thailand, with involvement and protection of RTP of course. Did the Abbot committed suicide 15 minutes before the 'liberators' arrived?

JohnC | 25 September 2021 - 08:51:36

So similar conditions to most prisons and Burmese worker camps throughout the country.


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