This is continuing the interview with a Thai prisoner. Background information can be found at www.ThaiPrisonLife.com.
How was your first night? Really bad. I couldn’t sleep at all. I was worrying too much about what was going to happen next. It was also very hot and uncomfortable. The cell was very crowded and I couldn’t move. There were three fans in the ceiling but it wasn’t enough for all of us. I found it difficult sleeping on the bare floor and with no pillow. I also couldn’t turn over and had to stay on the same side all night. I was glad when morning came and people started to wake up. This then gave me more room. I found it difficult to stand up because I hurt all over. In one corner of the room there is a toilet for all of us to share. It is a Thai style toilet that you squat over. Around it there is a low wall so that all people can see is your head. It is kept clean and wasn’t really smelly.
What time did you leave the cell? You cannot really call it a cell like in American prisons. It is not a small room with bunk beds that you share with a couple other people. Imagine a big hall that has a partition every four metres. The partition is a low wall with green bars going the rest of the way to the ceiling. It is the same at the front where the doors are. There are 16 of these cells on each floor. Each area is about 4 metres by about 8 metres I think. The place where I am sleeping now has 50 people. That first night there were probably only 35 people in that small area. To answer your question, people start to get up at about 5.45 a.m. or so. However, we are now allowed out until 6.00 a.m.
What happened to you next? The cell boss told us to go down and take a shower. I was lucky as when I got down to the ground floor I met a friend from my old school. He is a trustee and he helped me that first day. He said I could take a bath with the other trustees. He also gave me a bowl and lent me some soap. The trustees have a big water tub and we scooped the water over our bodies. Some people did this naked but others, like me, kept on our boxer shorts. The other prisoners had to take a shower. This is like a long corridor with a wall either side. Each person is allowed five minutes in the shower. The water is turned on for 2.5 minutes for you to wet your entire body. Then it is turned off while you then soap yourself quickly. Then the water is turned back on for another 2.5 minutes for you to wash off the soap. You have to be quick because you don’t get a second chance.
When did they cut your hair? They cut my hair that morning. I had breakfast that first morning with my friend. Other prisoners had to eat the government food which is not very nice at all. It is stale brown rice with some kind of curry. Sometimes the curry or soup is good, other times it is disgusting. They give you food three times a day. The last meal is about 3.00 p.m. However, if you have money, you can buy your own food in the prison shop. So, that first morning my friend bought me white rice and fried pork with basil. After I had finished eating, all the new prisoners had to line up for army like exercises. This is very difficult and exhausting. You have to do it for about two hours with a short break in the middle. All the new prisoners have to do it for the first month. I was lucky because after a short while my name was called to say that I had a visitor.
What was it like having visitors for the first time? That first day was very bad. My girlfriend, mother and brother came to see me. I cried a lot as I was so sad. At that time scared also because I didn’t know much about prison life. I wanted to touch my girlfriend but could not as there was glass and bars separating us. We could only speak to each other using a telephone. I spoke to my mother as well but we were only allowed 20 minutes altogether. It was hard saying goodbye but we weren’t allowed to stay after the phone line was cut. When I went back inside the prison, the exercises had finished. I then met up with a prison guard who is a friend of my grandfather. He told me that he would arrange work for me which will make life easier. He said if I worked then I didn’t have to do the daily exercises, which made me happy. That first day there wasn’t much else for me to do. So, I just hanged around. The time went very slowly. At about 4 p.m., we were all told to go back to our cells. We were then locked up in there for about 14 hours until the following morning. Then the day started again.
If you can find the time, it would boost his spirits a lot if you can write a short letter or send him a postcard. If you go to the website www.ThaiPrisonLife.com you will see information about how to write to him. This chapter in his long and eventful life (he is only 21) is not over yet. There will be more stories about what it is really like in a Thai prison as well as what it is like for the foreign prisoners in his cell block. Some of them already knew him from his websites and his column in the Bangkok Post.