The Top 16 gun-making prisoners, all serving time at Bang Kwang Central Prison, have been chosen to join a weapons-making course aimed at putting their knowledge to work and help build their future careers. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

Sixteen inmates found guilty of illegally making guns have been chosen to join a project aimed at sharpening their weapon-making skills to support the defence industry and smooth their return to society.

The project will “light their way” to a more positive future, Corrections Department chief Naras Savestanan said as he presided over an orientation ceremony before their two-week training, conducted by experts from the Army Ordnance Department at Bang Kwang Central Prison.

This marks a new approach to correcting inmates’ former misdeeds and brings out their talents in a proactive way that can be used to support society while also restoring their self-confidence, he said.

His department is struggling to deal with a high number of repeat offenders in the system as many companies refuse to give work to ex-convicts due to the heavy stigma attached to them.

This project aims to help overcome that as the Army Ordnance Department sets out to show by example how their specialised skills can be put to good use, Pol Col Naras said.

Most of the trainees have three more years left behind bars. After that, state agencies will decide whether they have the right skills, temperament and attitude to work with them, he said.

The 16 inmates, aged 23 to 50, were whittled down from a list of 233 prisoners. These were in turn were selected from a national prison population totalling more than 300,000 inmates.

They will attend classes teaching them about gun-making from a practical and theoretical standpoint. The course also tests their behaviour, attitude and skills.

They will be kept under close observation after they complete their jail terms, Pol Col Naras said.

The training will also instill in them a sense of patriotism in addition to knowledge of laws related to weapons, said Army Ordnance Department chief Lt Gen Arwut Aimwong.

“I will take this opportunity to correct myself and build a new career,” said a 28-year-old from Tak who was convicted of attempted murder. One of his classmates, a 50-year-old who used his factory skills to repair guns said, “This may be an opportunity to serve the nation.”

News Reporter

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