Thailand: The United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders (Bangkok Rules)
By Patthara Limsira**
Prisoners are forgotten people in the world. Especially, female inmates are much more
alienated. Women would face common problems in prisons which have been designed
primarily by and for men.1 They have not been acknowledged enough to meet their
basic needs in modem criminal justice system due to their specific mental and physical
circumstances.2 Even now, the legal instruments are insufficient for them.3 These
difficulties are much severer to alien women in prison under a foreign criminal justice
As a result, Her Royal Highness Princess Bajrakitiyabha has a keen interest in
helping and supporting disadvantaged female inmates worldwide to receive proper
treatment during their imprisonment term under the criminal justice system. Therefore, the Enhancing Lives of Female Inmates ("ELFI")5 was began with the Ministry of Justice
of Thailand assigned the Office of Justice Affairs as an implementing agency for the
ELFI Project in 2009. The Bangkok Rules were drafted based on resulting from the ELFI
project and developed with an aim to be supplement of the 1955 United Nations
Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners ("SMR") and do not replace
other existing standards.6 Under the direction of Her Royal Highness Princess
Bajrakitiyabha, Thailand has continuously promoted the draft Bangkok Rules among
United Nations Member States through various international human rights and
criminal justice system.
Until December 21, 2010, the United Nations General Assembly ("UNGA") took a
historical move in response to the needs and characteristics of female inmates for higher
protections by adopting its Resolution 65/229 approved the United Nations Rules for
the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders
(the Bangkok Rules) 7 which has been manifested as one of the successful outcomes of
the 65th session.
Furthermore, it also serves to honour Her Royal Highness Princess Bajarakitiyabha
whose perseverance and strong support has culminated in the successful adoption of
the Bangkok Rules by the United Nations. Hence, the Bangkok Rules are the first
dynamic United Nations guidelines governing the treatment of female inmates, which
States can refer to for an improvement of laws and regulations pertaining to female
inmates in correctional facilities. Hence, the Bangkok Rules telos will bring the higher
protection of human rights to all female inmates and their babies in the criminal justice
system in international level.
2. Contents of the Bangkok Rules
There are 70 Rules in the Bangkok Rules in response to the specific female needs in the
criminal justice system. This also opens to the society to contribute in resolving the
ongoing problem. The Bangkok Rules divides into four parts as follow:
Part 1: Rules of General Application (Rules 1-39) focus on prison management in
general, inter alia, register, allocation personal hygiene, health-care services, safety and
security, contract with the outside world, institutional personnel and their training,
juvenile female prisoners. The part is applicable in both civil and criminal cases
including security measures or corrective measures.
Part 2: Rules Applicable to Special Categories (Rules 40-56) divide into two sub parts.
Sub-part A focuses on prisoners under sentence, inter alia, classification and
individualization, prison regime, social relations and aftercare, pregnant women,
breastfeeding mothers, and mothers with children in prison, foreign nationals,
minorities and indigenous people. Sub-part B focuses on prisoners under arrest and
awaiting trial. There is nothing to prohibit the application of the provision in sub-part A
to sub-part B.
Part 3: Non-Custodial Sanctions and Measures (Rules 57-66) aim to apply for female
offenders who commit minor offences and are not physically able to serve the sentence,
inter alia, pregnant women and women with dependent children, juvenile female
offenders, and foreign nationals. This rule is applicable from the investigation until postsentencing
Part 4: Research, Planning, Evaluation and Public Awareness Raising (Rules 67-70)
respond the need of research into the factor of female offences and raising public
awareness, information sharing and training which includes rehabilitation mechanisms
for female inmates when they return to the society.
It has been more than 50 years since the adoption of the Standard Minimum Rules for
the Treatment of Prisoners, however, it still do not draw sufficient attention to women' s
particular needs. Ipso facto, the adoption of the Bangkok Rules provides a new paradigm of standards governing the treatment of female inmates to bring more clarity to
considerations. It is important and urgent for the States to implement the Bangkok Rules to provide the dynamic standards for the treatment of female inmates. Hence, Thailand
is the country which initiated the Bangkok Rules. It is, thus, imperative that female inmates in Thailand are the first to benefit from the Bangkok Rules. Thailand will also
widely promote and support the implementation of the Bangkok Rules for the benefits of female inmates.8 In additional, Thailand will seriously encourage the implementation
of the Bangkok Rules in correctional facilities throughout the country which would also
serve as a best practice for other States.
* Patthara Limsira is currently practicing law at Yuth Law Office, Bangkok. LL.B. (cum laude, Chula), LL.M. (Chula),
Cert. (ECSL), Cert. (Xiamen). The author may be contacted at email@example.com. I am grateful for the
comment and useful information from Ms. Wongduen Thangtor at Legal Officer, Office of the Permanent Secretary,
Ministry of Justice, Thailand on my early draft. Any errors are solely those of the author.
1 Jenni Gainsborough, Women in Prison: International Problems and Human Rights Based Approaches to Reform, 14
WM. & MARYJ . WOMEN & L. 271 (2007-2008).
2 Andrew Coyle, The Treatment of Prisoners: International Standards and Case Law, 13 LEGAL& CRIMINOLOGICAL
PSYHOL. 219 (2008).
3 E.g, see MEGANB ASTICK & LAUREL TOWNHEADW, OMEN IN PRISON A COMMENTAROYN THE UN STANDARDM INIMUM
RULES FORT HET REATMENTO F PRISONERS (2008); UNITED NATIONALO FFICE OF THE HIGH COMMISSIONEORF HUMANR IGHTS
("UNOHCHR"), HUMAN RIGHTS AND PRISONS-MANUAL ON HUMAN RIGHTS TRAINING FOR PRISON OFFICIALS (2005);
UNOHCHR, HUMANR IGHTS ANDP RISONS - TRAINER'S GUIDE ON HUMANR IGHTS TRAININGFO RP RISONO FFIcIALS (2005).
4 For details, see Penal Reform International and Quaker United Nations Office, Briefing on the UN Rules for the
Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders ("Bangkok Rules"), available at
http://www.penalreform.org/files/PRI-QUNO-print version.%2OBangkok%2ORules%2OFeb%202011.pdf (last visited on
Mar. 22, 2011).
5 See Enhancing Lives of Female Inmates ("ELFI"), available at http://www.elfi.or.th (last visited on Mar. 22, 2011).
6 See e.g., the Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice of 1985 (-Beijing Rules"), the Body
of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment of 1988, the Basic
Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners of 1990, the Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty
and Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency of 1990 ("Riyadh Guidelines"), the Standard Minimum Rules
for Noncustodial Measures of 1990 ('Tokyo Rules"), see also UNITED NATIONAL OFFICOEF T HE HIGH COMMISSIONEORF
HUMAN RIGHTS, HUMAN RIGHTS AND PRISONS - A COMPILATION OF INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS INSTRUMENTS
CONCERNINTGH E ADMINIsrRATION OFJ USTICE(2 005).
7 United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the
Bangkok Rules), GA Res. 65/229, U.N. GAOR, 65th Sess., U.N. Doc. AIRES/65/229 (Dec. 21, 2010).
8 For details on the recent publication, see CouRT OFJ USTICCEo,u RT ANDT HET REATMEONFTW OMEN PRISONE(R20S1 0).