In total, all 2,308 male prisoners who were serving sentences at the old prison were moved to the new facility in Bangjo, built at a cost of B789 million under a project that took nearly five years to complete.
The only prisoners remaining at the old prison in Phuket Town tonight are the 520 female prisoners serving sentences there, Prison Commissioner Suchart Silapachai told The Phuket News today.
“They will be moved to the new prison soon,” Mr Suchart said. He declined to confirm when.
Today’s mass transfer was conducted by using 10 prisoner transfer trucks, each carrying about 40 prisoners, making multiple round-trips to complete the transfer.
The operation began at 8:30am and was concluded by 2:30pm.
In order to complete each 25-minute transfer window, the prison trucks and their prison officer escort vans used sirens to clear their way through the traffic along Thepkrasattri Rd.
“I apologise for any inconvenience we may have caused on the roads today. The transfer of the prisoners could not be announced early for security reasons,” Mr Suchart said.
“Traffic Police were busy with other duties today, but we received help from Civil Defense Volunteers [OrSor] and other law-enforcement officers instead.” he said.
“In order to complete the transfer safely we needed 90 officers in total. In order to do this we needed to bring in extra prison officers from Ranong, Nakhon Sri Thammarat, Chumphon and Surat Thani,” Mr Suchart explained.
Mr Suchart refuted the idea that the prisoners were transferred early due to fears of COVID-19 spreading among prisoners in the overcrowded prison in Phuket Town.
“It has nothing to do with COVID-19. The Ministry of Justice wanted to give the prisoners a New Year’s gift. The new prison was already 100% complete and all the security systems had been properly tested, so there was no reason to not move them early,” he explained.
Previously, the prisoners were not expected to be moved to the new prison until at least next month at the earliest.
The new prison will give inmates some much-welcomed extra space.
Mr Suchart confirmed last August that the total official capacity of the old prison in Phuket Town was just over 1,200 prisoners.
Before today it was home to nearly 3,000 male and female inmates.
Mr Suchart said he was not privy to what will happen with the old prison once the female inmates have also been transferred to the new prison.
“That is beyond my responsibility,” he said today.
The old prison has stood for more than 100 years, making it one of the oldest buildings in Phuket Town.