Thailand: ICRC helps detainees and families restore contact
The floods that submerged large parts of northern and central Thailand in recent weeks forced the Thai prison authorities to evacuate 8,000 inmates from four prisons in Ayutthaya province. Most of their families were also affected by the floods, many losing their homes and having to flee the rising waters themselves. Knowing that their relatives were in flooded prisons added to their suffering.
Not knowing what has happened to a relative when disaster strikes is traumatic. Restoring contact between family members is as important as meeting such other basic needs as shelter, water, food and health care.
The ICRC and the Thai Department of Corrections have agreed to take the names and telephone numbers of all families of evacuated inmates and to tell them where their relatives are now. An ICRC team has been based at the Department of Corrections since 15 October, where they are busy phoning inmates' relatives.
"Most of the people we phoned had no idea what had happened to their relatives. They were very worried, but they were also relieved to hear that their relatives were safe and were being looked after," says ICRC tracing officer Benjamas Chantiwas. The ICRC was able to pass on news of 300 inmates to their relatives during the first two days of the operation alone.
The ICRC also continues to help inmates of the most affected prisons. So far, 18,000 inmates in seven prisons have benefited from ICRC support. Over the weekend, the ICRC provided drinking water to more than 5,000 inmates of the drug addiction rehabilitation centres in Patum Thani and set up pumps. The central prison in Nakhon Sawan is not accessible by road, so the ICRC has sent two boats to enable deliveries of such essentials as food and water.
On Monday, a team consisting of an ICRC water engineer, doctor and protection delegate began assessing the situation in the most affected jails, a process that will take a week to complete.