Coronavirus rumour sparks prison riot in Thailand's Buriram

Several inmates escape after setting fire to canteen in prison over coronavirus fear, according to officials.

    The new coronavirus killed at least seven people in Thailand [Ministry of Justice/Handout via Reuters]
    The new coronavirus killed at least seven people in Thailand [Ministry of Justice/Handout via Reuters]

    Dozens of prisoners broke furniture and smashed windows in a jail in northeastern Thailand during a riot sparked by rumours of a coronavirus outbreak in the facility.

    During Sunday's violence, some convicts escaped from the Buriram prison, which holds about 2,000 inmates, both male and female. Seven were arrested, the justice ministry said.

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    News reports showed large plumes of smoke rising above the prison in Buriram province.

    "A small group of prisoners received lifetime sentences earlier this week so they spread the rumour that the facility is unsafe for COVID-19," a senior justice ministry official told Reuters news agency, referring to the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

    "A hundred prisoners joined them in staging the riot," added the official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

    Thailand Buriram prison riot
    Smoke rises from Buriram prison during a riot that was sparked by rumours [Ministry of Justice/Handout via Reuters]

    The Thai government has stopped all prison visits since March 18 in a bid to stop the coronavirus spreading across the country's overcrowded correctional facilities.

    Police officers were deployed to contain the situation, including pursuing prisoners who escaped in the chaos, police deputy spokesman Krisana Pattanacharoen told Reuters.

    Restrictions on movement have been imposed in several Thai provinces as the total number of coronavirus cases reached 1,388, with 143 new cases reported on Sunday.

    The country also reported one new coronavirus death, bringing its total to seven.

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    SOURCE: Reuters news agency