Kamnan Poh gets a van ride to hospital in his home town
Convicted powerbroker Somchai 'Kamnan Poh' Khunpluem was transferred yesterday from Bangkok Remand Prison to the provincial jail in Chon Buri - his home province and political stronghold.But Corrections Department officials insisted he was given no special treatment.
Ten minutes after he arrived at the Chon Buri Prison, Somchai was sent to the local hospital after claims he suffered sudden blackout and exhaustion.
Prison chief Amnart Pratchayaphan said Somchai's blood pressure measured at 150, exceeding the safe level of 120. He was admitted to Chon Buri Hospital and put under round-the-clock guard to prevent escape.
"I didn't feel under pressure admitting Somchai into custody here, although this province is under his family's influence," Amnart said. "None of his relatives have requested any privileges, and regarding his transfer to the hospital, but the prison needs to take immediate measures in saving an ill person's life."
Doctors at the privately run Chon Buri Hospital made no statements about Somchai's admission nor did they say when he would be discharged. Details about Somchai's hospital room have been kept confidential, but the prison chief said it was a special room fit for security measures. Visits are limited to only relatives initially, and under other conditions, according to prison regulations.
Amnart did not give details about the prison cell planned for Somchai, however, a prison guard speaking anonymously said it would be in Area 6, where visiting hours are between noon and 3pm on weekdays.
The Corrections Department gave no explanation about its decision to transfer Somchai from Bangkok to Chon Buri, despite its public statement vowing not to give him any special treatment. Director general Suchart Wonganantachai simply announced earlier that the transfer was approved at the request of Somchai's son, Culture Minister Sontaya Kunplome.
"Chon Buri Prison is a maximum-security facility for convicts with imprisonment terms exceeding 30 years," Suchart said. "Somchai will not be able to escape from there because he is an elder."
Until being taken into custody last week, Poh, 75, had been a fugitive since his conviction and sentencing to prison seven years ago on charges that he masterminded the murder of a rival district chief and had corrupt dealings in the purchase of land for a Pattaya city trash dump.
A motorcade transporting Somchai to Chon Buri left the Bangkok Remand Prison at 10am yesterday under heavy police protection.
He was not handcuffed after being arrested last Wednesday and was moved to detention in an air-conditioned van instead of in an inmate transport truck. Also, he was not shackled during his trip to the Criminal Court for a hearing.
Pol Colonel Piya Charoensuk explained that Somchai was not handcuffed because he did not show signs of attempting to escape.
In regard to his not being shackled, a prison source cited an exception for women prisoners as well as inmates who are ageing or are in bad health. On use of the air-conditioned van, the source said it would be easier for police and prison guards to prevent escape.
On Somchai's transfer to Chon Buri, senior Corrections Department official Kittiphat Dechaphahul said keeping inmates near their families could improve their behaviour, adding that he approved up to 400 of such transfers each month.