Category Archives: Thai Prison Life

Foreign Inmate Secretly Uploads Thai Prison Videos to Youtube

It’s not every day that we get a sneak peek of what it is like inside a Thai prison. That is exactly what we are getting now from a 58 second video that was originally uploaded to Youtube in October 2011. It shows a conversation between two foreign inmate, one called Jeffrey and an unidentified Nigerian. It was shot in Bang Kwang maximum security prison, just to the north of Bangkok. You are only sent here if you are serving a long sentence. In the case of these two guys, they are more than likely serving time for a drug offence. The area here is along one of the inner walls where the prisoners go to relax, wash clothes and use the toilets. It is most likely shot at the weekend as there are plenty of Thai prisoners around. During the week they spend most of their time in the workshops. At the weekend, there are less guards on duty and prisoners are left to their own devices in the prison grounds.

The first video talks about the prisoners doing illegal activities such as doing drugs. The Nigerian has lit a fire and he says he is burning old letters. In the second video, Jeffrey talks about his house which can be seen. As the foreigners do not work, they have huts which they can hang out in during the day. Some of them are well equipped with easy chairs and cooking equipment. Some foreign prisoners even hire Thais to be their cooks. Although this is all old news (I wrote about it on last year), it has only just come to the attention of Thai authorities. Just this week it was posted on the British based website where it got many comments both on there and on Reddit. The Bangkok Post have now picked up on the story and prison authorities have called in to question the foreigners seen on the video.

According to the Bangkok Post, Jeffrey told prison authorities that he recorded the clip in “October 2010″ and that he sent it onto an American friend. He said he did not know how it got on the LiveLeak website. I think the date was probably wrong as a user called  uploaded it to Youtube in October 2011. It is possible that Jeffrey is this person who did the uploading as only two videos have been uploaded to this account so far. It is not uncommon for prisoners to have illegal cellphones. Many of them are smartphones with internet connections. In one month alone, nearly 500 cellphones were confiscated at Nakhon Si Thammarat Prison. It is not far fetched to believe that prisoners have uploaded to Youtube. They have even been known to have Facebook pages where they post photos. Some of the confiscated cellphones showed prisoners taking drugs.

As a result of this video, the prison authorities at Bang Kwang have downgraded the two inmates to the worst grade. This will mean that they will miss out on things like the annual contact visit. They also won’t be eligible for a collective king’s pardon. Personally I think a part of the blame should be directed at prison officials for allowing this to happen. Although some cellphones are smuggled in by the prisoners or thrown over the walls, prison wardens have also been known to have sold phones to the inmates. According to the Bangkok Post, 28 prison officials were dismissed after it was found they were involved in illegal activities. As to how many cellphones are being used by prisoners, let’s just say that within just 6 months, prison authorities have confiscated 9,513 cellphones! And if you think there are none left then think again. Inmates are still calling their girlfriends even today.

Watch both of these videos over at >>>

Executed Prisoners Leave Bang Kwang

For the second time yesterday, Thailand executed prisoners by lethal injection. Six prisoners have now been executed in this manner. Up until December 2002, the method of execution was by machine gun. In 2003 this was changed to lethal injection and the first execution of four prisoners took place in December of that year. For the following six years there have been no executions despite the fact that there are now 832 prisoners on death row. Out of these, 127 prisoners have exhausted their rights of appeal and could be executed at any time with little or no notice. They are given a chance to telephone relatives but can only speak for one minute.

Early this morning, relatives of the two executed prisoners came to collect the bodies from the execution chamber. For some reason, 80 students from a local Junior High school were allowed into the prison. The teacher said that she wanted to show the students the consequence of doing bad things. The small parade, led by a monk, left the morgue next to the execution chamber and headed towards Wat Bang Praek Tai. The only way that prisoners on Death Row can leave Bang Kwang is through a small red door behind the execution chamber. They leave here in coffins. This door hasn’t been opened for a while so they had to spray oil on the hinges and use a crowbar to get it open.

Visit Thai Prison Life for more information about prisons in Thailand. Also, click here to see newspaper pictures of the two prisoners praying before their execution. This was on the front page of Daily News this morning. These pictures were from Manager Newspaper.

Two Prisoners Executed in Thailand

Two drug traffickers on death row at Bang Kwang Prison were executed by lethal injections this evening in Thailand. They were Bundit Charoenwanich, 45, and Jirawat Phumpruek, 52. Both were arrested on March 29, 2001 for having 114,219 methamphetamine tablets in their possession. Convicted of drug trafficking, they were given the capital punishment. Although the death sentence is often commuted to life imprisonment, the Director of the Department of Corrections received a directive from the Prime Ministers office for this sentence to be carried out.

According to Thai newspapers, the execution happened this evening at 5.30 p.m. at Bang Kwang Prison. No-one knew it was going to happen as it was kept a secret from everyone. Lockdown was at 3 p.m. as normal. Then the two prisoners were taken out of their cells on Death Row to be prepared for the execution. This preparation took one hour. They were allowed one call to relatives but they were only given one minute to talk. One of the prisoners rang his home but there was no answer. His mother had just been to visit him that afternoon and probably hadn’t reached home. The prisoner then asked for a favour to call her mobile phone which was granted. Finally he was able to get through to her to let her know that he was about to be executed. The other prisoner spoke briefly to his wife and young son.

The prisoners were also instructed to write a will. The records of the prisoners were brought to the prison from the police station. Their fingerprints were then checked to make sure they had the right prisoner. The execution order from the Prime Minister’s office was then read out to them. They were then given flowers and incense sticks and given an opportunity to say a prayer. They faced towards Wat Bang Praek which is next door and where the cremation will take place. There is a small death door in the wall here. Before the execution, they were offered a last meal. This was a curry and fried asparagus. They were also given an apple and a packet of cigarettes. Obviously they weren’t very hungry. They were then led into the execution chamber where they were given a final blessing and sermon by a monk.

The governor of Nonthaburi and other government officials attended the execution together with reporters. The relatives weren’t present but they will go the prison in the morning to take part in religious rites for the prisoners. The last execution by machine gun was carried out on 11th December 2002. This was then changed to lethal injection. The first and last time this was carried out was 12th December 2003 when four prisoners were executed. This is now the second occasion that lethal injection was used. According to the Department of Corrections, a prisoner is injected with three kinds of drugs consisting of sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride. The first drug is a barbiturate which makes the prisoner unconscious. The second one is a muscle relaxant which can paralyze the entire muscle and stop breathing. The last one stops the heart and causes cardiac arrest.

This is a sad day for Thailand. I am sorry but I don’t believe in the death penalty and I certainly don’t believe in the lethal injection as the method.

For more information about Thai Prison Life, please visit our website.

Contact Visit at a Thai Prison – Part 2

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Contact visits in Thai prisons are usually held over a period of about one week. You can book in advance to say which day you would like to go inside the prison. Gor’s parents booked us for the first day. We turned up over one hour early on the morning of our visit as there were literally hundreds of people and we knew it would take time to process everyone. Normally, only relatives are allowed in for these contact visits, but Gor’s mother told the prison officials that I was married to one of his relatives. All I then had to show was my passport. We were then also given the opportunity to buy coupons which we were told we could use to buy food once we were inside. They were very strict about what you could or couldn’t take inside the prison. Apart from money, we weren’t allowed to take things like mobile phones, cameras, food, books, or anything that could be used as a weapon. In fact, we weren’t allowed to take any bags and we had to make sure that our pockets were empty.

Once we had been processed, we were then taken in groups to the main prison gate. Here we had to show our application and identification. We then passed through metal detectors and were thoroughly searched. I guess they were a bit suspicious of my extra large shoes, so they told me to take them off so that they could do a proper search of them. Much to the amusement of the Thais. Most of them were wearing flop flops or sandals and passed through with little fuss. If you ever go to a contact visit, you also need to make sure that you are dressed in respectful clothing. This means no shorts and you must wear shirts that have sleeves. One person was turned away because her top was too revealing. She quickly went off to borrow a top from someone else.

The control area has double gates at both ends. The normal procedure is that the gates on either end cannot be opened at the same time. There were also two sections. One for pedestrian traffic and the other for vehicles. This is where the prison bus will park and load up several hundred prisoners onto the bus. The outer door is kept locked during the loading and all the prisoners are wearing prison uniforms and have heavy chains temporarily fixed to their ankles. In the old days, they used to have to take prisoners to the court in several buses as there were so many. However, they now have things such as “e-courts” where the prisoner stays at the prison. For some small hearings, the prisoner only has to state his name and to say he understands the charges. The prison, the courthouse and the police station are all linked up with video conferencing via the Internet. This means not everyone has to go to court. While we were being processed, a delivery vehicle had entered this area and was undergoing a search from top to bottom.

From the reception area at the front gates, we were then led down an avenue with brightly painted murals on the facing walls. They depicted scenes from the Buddha’s life and taught good ethics and morality. As the prisoners are escorted to the prison bus, I guess they look at these paintings detailing the horrors of drugs and alcohol and they regret their sins. Whether it makes them a better person in the future is open to debate. From here, we were taken taken to a large field. Although we were now inside the prison, there were still further walls and gates that separated us from each area, called “dan” in Thai. On one side of the field, tables and chairs had been set up. Near the entrance there were also tables where you could use coupons to buy food, drinks and snacks. At the far end, a large stage had been set up for the morning’s entertainment.

As we walked in, Gor spotted us and immediately came over to welcome our party. He respectfully greeted everyone with a traditional Thai wai and then hugged his mother and his young daughter. This was the first time in two years that anyone had been allowed to get up close to Gor. He then led us to a table that had been reserved for us. His father then went off to buy the food with the coupons. We bought more than what was needed for this meal together as Gor was allowed to take any leftovers back with him. I didn’t really have much to talk with him about as I visit the prison quite often. So, I let him catch up with his daughter while I studied the surroundings.

To the far right of where we were sitting, I could see two large white buildings. This was Dan 2, the area where Gor slept and spent most of his day. However, he said that he was often called to different areas to help with translating. The block on the right was where he spent 14 hours a day locked up in the cells with his fellow inmates. He said from his cell window he could see out onto the road and watch buses pass on the road below. On the ground floor is the area where they ate their meals. The second block, houses the workshops where the prisoners work during the day. There are three such areas in the prison and each is an exact mirror of each other. Dan 2 also has a small football pitch which they can play on when not muddy.

The place near where we were sitting, I could see through the wire fence prisoners lining up to visit the medical officer. These visits have to be booked a day in advance and you have to make sure that you are not ill at the weekend as they are closed to everything apart from serious illnesses. For most illnesses, the doctor will only prescribe paracetamol. For anything more serious, you can apply to be taken to the prison hospital in the grounds of Klong Prem Prison in Bangkok. But, it is not easy to get that transfer.

One thing I noted was how much the guards relied on the trustees. These are well behaved prisoners who have been recruited by the guards to help maintain order. After all, the guards are heavily outnumbered and they can only maintain order through good discipline and the trustee system. Gor is also a trustee as he works in the office. Trustees wear a dark blue uniform but they are not allowed any weapons. Even guards are not allowed guns inside the prison and can only use wooden truncheons. It is easy to spot who is a guard inside a prison as they are the only people allowed to wear long trousers. All prisoners, including the trustees have to wear shorts. For the normal prisoners, they don’t have to wear a uniform inside the prison. They just wear their normal clothes. If they are wearing jeans when they first come in, this is then cut short by the guards. I saw a lot of prisoners wearing green uniforms. I asked Gor about this and he said they they were people sentenced to 48 days after they failed a random drugs test. No wonder the prisons are so crowded if they send drug addicts to prison instead of drug rehab.

There were some trustees stationed at a gate near where we were sitting. There were four of them and one prison guard who was slouching on a chair with his feet up. As people came and went, the trustees would give them a thorough search before they were allowed to pass through the gate. Of course the guards themselves weren’t searched by the trustees. But, I saw them being searched by other guards when they entered or left the prison at the main gate. They also have lockers on the outside as they are not allowed to bring money or mobile phones inside. In fact, they have to make sure that their pockets are empty. There seemed to be a good relationship between guards and trustees. They were sometimes laughing together though they still had to be subservient and stand to attention if a guard walked past.

The contact visit lasted about two hours. We ate and chatted and watched the entertainment on stage. There was a prison band and some singers who were pretty good. There were also a couple of girls from Taiwan who sang us a song in Chinese. As is normal in Thai society, we were entertained by some female impersonators, or ladyboys as they are often called. They came around with home made flower garlands made from paper that we would could buy with coupons and then give to our favourite singers.

All too soon our time was up. All of the prisoners were called to one side of the field where they were counted several timers. They were then escorted off the field under the watchful eye of the trustees and guards. Gor told me later that they were then given a thorough search before going back to his block. Next came the turn of the trustees who were also counted. Finally, once all of the prisoners had been accounted for and had left, we were then allowed to leave in small groups. It had been an interesting visit for myself. An opportunity to see the inside of a prison. However, I think Gor got more out of this contact visit as he was able to eat a meal and chat with his family in an almost normal manner.

Gor still has one more year left of his three year prison term. He is very grateful to his many Internet friends around the world who have been giving him morale support by sending him letters and also visiting him at the prison. He is also grateful to the people who have deposited money into his prison account. In Thai prisons, if you don’t have support from outside then it is difficult to survive. Please visit for more information about his life in prison and also for the address where you can write to him.

Contact Visit at a Thai Prison

Prison Factory

Inmates in Thai prisons are confined in their overcrowded cells for at least 14 hours a day. Each room was built to house only 25 prisoners sleeping on the floor with no furniture and only one open toilet in the corner. These days, due to an increase in drug addiction, cells now hold as many as 65 inmates. Floor space is at a premium and new prisoners are only given enough space to sleep on their side, wedged into a narrow space between two other prisoners. A trip to the toilet at night would awake everyone in the cell, where the lights are never turned off. If you have financial support from the outside, then you can “buy” extra space on the floor and a few other comforts such as a mat and an empty pillowcase which you can stuff with clothes.

Most Thai prisoners are set to work in the factories all day doing menial work. They are making furniture or other local products which are then sold for great profit. The prisoners are given a small amount of this profit for their effort. The argument is that they should be grateful that they are being taught a trade. Which, in many cases, can be life saving once they are released from the prison. One of the drawbacks of overcrowding, is that hardened criminals such as murderers, rapists and drug dealers are mixed in with the petty criminals and first time offenders such as drug addicts who may only be 18 years old. Once they leave prison, many of these prisoners have learned the wrong kind of trade and have picked up tips and contacts that will give them a criminal career for life.

Exercise in the Prison Yard

The only break from the tedium of the repetitive and predictable daily schedule are visits from relatives and friends. However, they are only allowed one visit per day and the meeting lasts less than twenty minutes. On busy days, the visits can be cut to less than 15 minutes. In the bigger prisons, each cell block will take turns to have visits so then there might only be an opportunity to have visits twice a week. At the weekend, the prison is closed and the boredom is increased tenfold as the prisoner don’t even have any work to do. A normal visit is not like something you might have seen in Hollywood movies. There is no contact. In older prisons, you are separated by about a meter with thick wire mesh on both sides. You then have to shout to be heard. With at least fifty prisoners and their relatives all shouting to be heard, you can imagine the noise.

These days, many prisons now use a telephone system. You are then separated this time with a thick perspex glass and wire mesh. Once your time is up, the phone lines are cut dead and there is no warning. The only farewell you can give is a wave or try to shout through the perspex. For prisoners that are well-behaved, there is a chance once or twice a year to have a “contact visit”. However, don’t make the mistake in thinking that this is a congenial visit between a husband and his wife that you sometimes hear about in American prisons. A “contact visit” in Thailand is more like an open day at the local prison for relatives to go and sit at tables on the football pitch and eat a meal together. Entertainment is also provided with singing on a temporary stage.

Guards Searching Prisoner’s Lockers

Panrit Daoruang, more popularly known as Gor, has been in prison now for two years for a drug possession charge. He has only one year left to serve now. Although Gor has been a model prisoner helping the guards to communicate with the foreign prisoners and working in the office, he only recently had the chance to have his first contact visit. This is because that for the last two years he has been awaiting the results of his appeal. If knew back then how long that would have taken then he probably wouldn’t have bothered. He wasn’t appealing the guilty verdict but the length of sentence. It was actually his lawyers idea. As his case wasn’t closed until recently, he wasn’t eligible for contact visits. He also didn’t benefit from the nationwide pardon announced on H.M. The King’s birthday late last year. Some people had their sentences reduced or were set free. But, Gor didn’t get anything out of it.

He also won’t get any time off for good behaviour as he has only just been graded. Once a prisoner’s case has been closed, he is given an “average grade”. Then, every six months this is reviewed and can either be increased or decreased depending on their behaviour. If he then gets enough points on his grade, he can apply for parole once he has served at least two thirds of his sentence. By the time Gor’s grade is high enough, it will be time for him to leave anyway. His only hope is that there will be another national pardon which might reduce his sentence or at least revoke the heavy fine that he received. Rumours are flying around the prison at the moment that there might be a pardon to mark the cremation ceremony for H.M. The King’s elder sister. Sometimes they do pardons in order to make merit for a person or an event.

Thai Boxing Instruction

Last month, Gor’s parents asked me if I would be interested to join them for a contact visit to see Gor inside the prison. I immediately said “yes”. Though, to be honest, my interest was more the opportunity to go inside the prison gates than it was to see Gor face to face. But, don’t tell him that. Going along for the visit was also his grandmother, brother and his young daughter, Nong Grace, who is now five years old. Since Gor has been in prison, Nong Grace has been brought up by her grandparents. She also spends about 2-3 hours per day during the week with me and I sometimes take her out at the weekend when I go out for site inspections at tourist attractions around the region. Her English is now very good. She likes English story books and watching English language cartoons on cable t.v.

Click here to read about the contact visit inside the prison.