Rumours About COVID-19 Led to a Violent Prison Riot in Thailand Prison

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By now, we probably don’t need to tell you to social distance, since most people are scared shitless by COVID-19.

I mean, even if you didn’t, you could be jailed for not social distancing or even have your passport revoked.

So what happens when you have no opportunities to social distance at all?

Like, say… in an overcrowded prison?

Not very fun fact: Thailand prisons are infamous for their overcrowding; each inmate has only half a square metre of space and many slept sitting up.

Just look at this:

Image: Bangkok Post

A perfect location to spread any kind of contagious disease.

Or if you just want to watch the world burn, you could just spread a rumour that a very contagious disease is currently in the facility.

Which is exactly what a group of prisoners sentenced to life did, hoping to create chaos and escape.

Image: Giphy

Happened in Buriram Prison with About 2,000 Inmates

Now let’s be clear: there isn’t actually any infection in the facility. Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin confirmed this: “The fact is that none of the prisoners in Buriram was infected. They only started this rumour to find some supporters.”

The group wanted to escape by creating chaos, which involved burning certain facilities like the visiting area and cafeteria. This incident happened on 29 Mar 2020.

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

Smoke can be seen coming out of the prison, according to local media.

Image: Thailand Ministry of Justice


The Rumour Worked… For a While

Prisoners broke furniture and smashed windows over fears of a COVID-19 outbreak, and some convicts even managed to escape. Seven were arrested.

Image: Thailand Ministry of Justice

Which probably means that their prison break attempt turned out not very successful.

But what about the rest of the panicked prisoners who lost their shit from the rumour?

I’m going to go on a limb to say that calming down a bunch of people who went to prison for doing stupid shit isn’t the easiest thing to do.

Another not very fun fact: over 70% of prisoners are in for minor offences like drug abuse (which caused the overcrowding in the first place).


In fact, to calm the prisoners down authorities had to deploy mental health workers to assure the prisoners that the outbreak is just a rumour.

By the way, this isn’t the first prison riot that started over COVID-19.

Last Sunday, another prison riot started in the Colombian capital of Bogota which killed 23 inmates. If you do the math, the prison riot had a larger fatality rate than contracting the virus itself.

Thailand authorities have banned visitors and are quarantining new inmates for 14 days to prevent outbreaks in jails.

There are currently 1,388 recorded cases of COVID-19 in Thailand, including seven deaths. Of the cases, two are prisoners (not in Buriram).

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