Samut Prakan Criminal Court
Recently, I found myself back at the Samut Prakan Criminal Court. This is now my third time in a Thai court. I am not trying to make a habit out of it, but Gor keeps asking me to help out foreigners who find themselves in trouble with the law. This time it was a British national who had been accused of attempted murder. I will call him John as this is an ongoing case. This guy arrived in Samut Prakan Central Prison in early October of last year. Gor was the person who interviewed him that first day and took down his particulars. Without going into too many details, John was arrested at the airport after getting into a fight with a waiter. John was in a deep depression due to problems with his ex-girlfriend. He had also been robbed of all his possessions a few days earlier. He was now on his way home. He had been drinking heavily when he got into an argument with the waiter. He picked up a knife from the counter and stabbed the waiter in the chest. The wound wasn’t fatal but the waiter spent four days in hospital. Later that night, John was arrested by the police and taken to prison.
I had been to see John a couple of times at the prison after Gor had told me that he was worried about his mental health. I was quite frankly shocked when I first saw him. He didn’t make eye contact with me and seemed very unresponsive to my questions. He just kept saying that he was framed and that he wanted me to contact the British Embassy to get him out of there. At that point he said he had been there a month and that the embassy didn’t know he was there. I didn’t know the details of his case at that time. I felt it best not to ask. I wasn’t there to judge him. Just to see if there was anything I could do to help. I promised him that I would ring the embassy. On the way out, I bought him some food in the prison shop as well as some cigarettes.
When I got home I immediately rang the British Embassy. I asked to be put through to the office that dealt with British nationals in Thai prisons. A guy called Jeff Mitchell picked up the phone. I told him that I wanted to report a British national who was in Samut Prakan Central Prison. “Oh you mean John?”, he said. It turned out that they knew all about him and had already been to visit him several times. Jeff was very helpful though obviously he couldn’t give me any details of the case. I said that I didn’t want to know, but was only ringing because I was concerned about his mental health. I told him that I thought he should be having medical treatment. Jeff said that they were aware and were doing everything in their power to help him. He said that on his third visit that John didn’t even remember who he was. At the end of our conversation, I felt assured that the British Embassy were doing some excellent work in looking after John. Before I said goodbye, I asked for the email address of John’s father as I wanted to let him know that I had visited his son and that he was basically alright.
Since that time, I have been in contact with John’s parents quite a few times. Both by email and telephone. They gave me some background information which helped me understand what caused John’s present condition. I then passed this information on to Gor who said that he would try and look out for him. But, he said that it is difficult to help someone who refuses to help himself. A few months later, I was at the prison visiting an American who had just been incarcerated for passport problems. During our conversation I asked him about John. He then told me that his condition was getting worse. He said that everyone was trying to help him. They had to literally force him to do everything from eating to taking a shower. I had sent him some English novels, but John just couldn’t concentrate on anything. Earlier this month, John’s lawyer went to visit him in prison but he refused to come out. Gor had to literally drag him there. In the end he only agreed to go when Gor bribed him with some cigarettes and said that he would go with him.
The Thai courts are very busy and sometimes it can be up to a year before people go to court. John’s lawyer tried to rush this case because of the circumstances of John being far from home. They were hoping for an April date, but in the end they were given a date towards the end of May. John’s father had already been over here in Thailand during that first month he was arrested. But he was unable to go for the court trial as his mother was ill and had been in hospital. So, I promised him that I would go to represent him in the court and also to give John some morale support. That is why this week I found myself back in the criminal court. I won’t call myself an expert, but I am now starting to know my way around the place. Maybe too much. Everyone already knows me at the prison. Now it is going to be like that here at the courthouse.
The sound of sirens announced the arrival of the prison bus shortly before 9 a.m.. It backed into the holding area and the prisoners, who were chained at the ankles, hobbled down from the bus. I hadn’t seen John for a while so I wasn’t sure if he would recognize me. I pushed my way to the front of the crowd of relations who were waiting to see their loved ones. John was the eighth person off the bus. I called out his name and he looked over to me and nodded. At least there was some recognition. Inside I met up with John’s lawyer. His father had already told her that I would be coming and so she was looking out for me. She spoke excellent English and she filled me in with the details of what would happen on this day. She said that she had just gone in to see John and was able to ring his parents so that he could speak briefly. We then went up to one of the courtrooms on the second floor.
I will give you a description of what happened in court in part two. I will also try and give some background information to the Thai court system. The intention of these blogs is to help people understand the process in case they ever find themselves in this situation. After listening to the stories of some foreign prisoners, I believe that any one of us could so easily find ourselves in their position. So, before we judge them, lets please see what we can do to help them. At the moment, Gor has said that it would be good if people could send English novels as there is nothing for the foreigners to do day and night. For more details, please visit our sister blogs at www.ThaiPrisonLife.com.