Gary Graeme Jones is a prisoner in Bang Kwang Prison. The infamous Bangkok Hilton. So many people have heard of it but do not realise what a nightmare that name conjures. I have never been there, I have never been to Thailand and from what I have heard of the place I never wish to go.
My partner read a book, The Angel of Bang Kwang by an American, Susan Aldous (ISBN-10: 1905379323). In this book was detailed the issues that all the prisoners have to deal with from day to day, bribery, corruption, lack of food, lack of sanitation and an unbelievable harsh regime. In this book Susan Aldous said the best way to help is to write to someone there. We picked Gary from the Foreign Prisoner Support Service (http://www.phaseloop.com/foreignprisoners/pris-bangkwang.html) The website describes Bang Kwang as "a Maximum Security Prison which holds inmates who are serving more than 25 years" It also says "Overcrowding is an understatement as 20 or more inmates sleep side by side in small concrete cells with a bare bulb shining all night long. An open shit hole in the corner which all the men use. Originally built to hold a few thousand inmates, it now holds over 8000. "
Other books we have read since have also described the same conditions, in a land that describes itself as the "land of smiles".
Many will get this far and say "well they did the crime and so they do the time" but actually its not that simple. Corruption is rife amongst the judiciary and the police forces. Many foreigners (Farangs) are found guilty of crimes they did not commit based on planted "evidence." Each time a Farang is found guilty of a drugs offence the arresting police officer gets a bounty of many thousands of Baht. This can amount to up to at least 5 years worth of salary for an individual.
Once the arrest has been made the prisoner is shackled and locked away in a holding prison (usually Bombat). In this time in the holding cells the prisoners can be shackled to a bar for many days. Court appearances are made in shackles and all the proceedings carried out in Thai. In many cases the prisoner is not allowed an interpreter and only a lawyer who is disinterested in them and their case. Many also plead guilty as the options are as follows. Plead guilty and get a heavy sentence, plead innocent and if found guilty its the death sentence. Admittedly if you have enough money you can pay to get out of most cases but sometimes that price is too high for an ordinary person.
Once found guilty (its a headline event if a Farang is found innocent) then you are taken in chains to prison. The shackles stay on indefinitely in direct contravention of the United Nations
Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, Sections 33 and 34. Whilst may agencies in the UK and abroad accept that men are shackled they will always say that the shackles are removed upon appeal. What they dont mention is that this appeal can and does take many years and whilst bribery can help the chains do remain on 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the British Embassy in Thailand is the logical first choice for all Brits with an issue stuck in jail one would think. However, they (and other agencies) do not rock the boat. Tourism is big money in Thailand and for that and other reasons Consul staff do not interfere in anyway with the Judicial process. In fact in one case I found them downright unhelpful and when trying to lodge an appeal for a prisoner, they blocked the appeal every step of the way. The FCO basically are working under the instructions to never, ever question the Royal Thai Police in any way. Also don't bother them if you have pleaded guilty to a conviction as they will not be of a mind to help you. Catch 22?
The FCO do however give money to supply food for all British inmates (incidentally ask them how many Brits are in Thai jails, they dont know for sure). This money is to be used to buy food and goods for the inmates. However, this never makes it to the prisoners. Instead the guards pocket the money and substandard food is made available (you get rice you have to wash before eating even though it is cooked). Then the wives of the guards cook healthier food which the inmates have to buy. The obvious solution is to get friends and relatives to send food? Well yes but Farangs are not, under any circumstances, allowed to cook food. They have to employ another Thai inmate to do thier cooking for them.
So this is Gary's Blog. Gary is a British Citizen, Married to a Thai with four adopted kids. He was born in 1950 and is doing Life for the exporting of 2.4Kg of heroin. Thats the website info. we have found Gary to be articulate, intelligent and extremely outspoken in the treatment of prisoners, not just in the Thai jails but everywhere in the world. As we go on we will post stuff that Gary has written in letters, descriptions of his fellow prisoners, pictures where possible and gradually we will get a picture of him and his life.
Hope you enjoy it.