The work began after a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Phuket Provincial Administrative Organisation (PPAO) and Phuket City Municipality at an event held in front of the century-old prison, located on Damrong Rd.
Signatories to the MoU were PPAO President Rewat Areerob and Phuket City Deputy Mayor Onphailin Trakulpalinphon.
Present as witnesses to the event were Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew, Phuket Vice Governor Amnuay Pinsuwan, Phuket Provincial Chief Administrative Office (Palad) Somprat Prabsongkram, Phuket Land Office Chief Wisit Chokchai, Phuket Area Treasury Office Chief Aisoon Suthamthewakun, along with Paisarn Chaewchan, Director of the Prisoner Development Division and Krisana Thipayachan, Commander of Phuket Provincial Prison.
The event today followed the Treasury Department on Sept 30 issuing a notice granting permission to the Office of the Permanent Secretary for Interior for Phuket to use the state land, measuring 37-2-41 rai, reported the Phuket office of the Public Relations Department (PR Phuket).
The permission officially allowed the site to be used as a public park, the report said.
The area to be developed covers approximately 29-1-86.2 rai, the report added.
The park must be designed and constructed according to the plans approved by the Phuket Provincial Office, overseen by the Phuket Governor.
The plans include several small buildings to be constructed on the site, covering only 8-0-54.8 rai, but also with parking spaces, the report continued.
The idea for development of the park began back in 2014, when the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) resolved to approve the Ministry of Justice (Department of Corrections) to proceed with the construction of a new Phuket Provincial Prison, PR Phuket explained.
The old Phuket Provincial Prison was allowed to be reused for other purposes once the inmates had been moved to the new facility, the report continued.
For nigh two decades the old Phuket Prison was notoriously overcrowded, spurring the move to spend B789 million on building the new Phuket Provincial Prison in Srisoonthorn, Thalang. The new prison opened in December 2020.
The old prison, however, most recently served as a ‘Covid Care Center’, where COVID-19 patients not sick enough to be admitted to hospital were required to stay “for the health and safety of their neighbours in the community” during the height of the Delta outbreak last year.
Krisana Thipayachan, Commander of Phuket Provincial Prison, explained earlier this year that the move to transform the old prison into a tourism attraction came under the direction of Ayut Sinthapphan, Director-General of the Department of Corrections.
Built some 120 years ago, the prison remains one of the oldest remaining prisons still standing in the country, Mr Kisana said.
The prison covers just over 41 rai, with much of the site undeveloped as the buildings clustered close to Damrong Rd, he said at the time.
“By designating the development of the Old Phuket Prison area in Phuket Town for public use to become a green area, it will become the lungs of Phuket Town,” Mr Krisana said.
“Currently, this Phuket Prison is not used for inmates control missions, but it is worth preserving for future generations to learn about the wisdom of the craftsmen in the past, both in architecture and the tools and materials used in construction,” he said.
“People generally can’t see or touch such real things from the past; some people call it ‘Twilight Zone’... Developing the ‘Twilight Zone’ to be an eco-tourism attraction and a ‘live museum’ learning centre will give tourists and local people a learning experience about correctional work in the past,” Mr Kirisana continued.
“The prison will also serve as a source of education for those interested in correctional work and will be used as a professional training venue for inmates who are undertaking vocational training before release,” he added.
Meanwhile, the new Phuket Provincial Prison, built on 108 rai in Srisoonthorn, is already 85% full, officials reported in May this year.
The prison is designed to accommodate a total of 3,459 inmates, comprising 3,086 male inmates and 373 female inmates.
However, the new prison already has 2,943 inmates, comprising 2,552 male inmates and 391 female inmates.