Wednesday, 21 July 2010

A view on Thai Prison Life

Now here is a little vignette that I hope explains some aspects of Thai prison life and frankly causes you some righteous indignation. I'm also hoping that someone will alert Professor Duncan McCargo and his Students at Leeds University about this entry.

'Incidents' occur on a daily basis here in the Hilton. All of them are significant, and most are very indicative of how the Thais Department of Corrections (D.O.C) consider the 'status' of the 300,000 - 350,000 inmates they are charged with managing. What is spread publicly is nearly always diametrically opposed from reality. Rarely do you, the outsider, get a chance to hear from us inmates as to what is really going on in the prisons. Even when we do manage to grab your attention, via blogs such as this, its short work for Embassy staff - in the case especially of the British Embassy - to dismiss what we have to say as being the rantings of disgruntled "criminals who can't do the time".

As I have said in previous blogs, shackles are a fixed feature of Thai prison life. They don't just get worn when we leave our cells in the morning and then removed in the early afternoon when we return to them. Shackles are a 24/7 condition for almost all inmates, ranging from a minimum of 3 months up to, and including , the moment we are executed if you are on a Death Sentence. The record for the Hilton stands at over 19 years and is held by Manit Phormdansud, a highly contentious and contested drugs charge involving 2-3 kilos of heroin, for which he received the Death Penalty. Incidentally Manit considers he has several more years to go before they convene to deliberate on the verdict.

But it doesn't really matter what decision the Supreme Court hands down, we inmates know full well that the D.O.C is not beholden to anyone, from Judges all the way up to the Thai King. As a side note have a read of an interesting article on Lester's website (http://steveinbangkwang.bravehost.com Newsletter, August 2006), were even though the Monarch grants a Taiwanese man a full pardon, a relatively subordinate screw ignores the directive to free him.

Full Kings Pardons aren't especially common. However, more common seemingly, are the occasions when the D.O.C blatantly disregards instructions from the judiciary. Only in Amazing Dieland, (Thailand - rhyming slang) could such a situation occur.

One of the many instances is where screws consider themselves to be the sole arbiters as to how to abuse the inmates regards shackles. The D.O.C will never ever stop this inhumane treatment. The UN High commission report on Torture was very damning of Thailand on their use of shackles as the Thai government had signed up to an agreement to stop using them. However the D.O.C appealed to the Thai Courts that the Shackles were necessary and that Thailand should not be bound by International Treaties (http://deathpenaltythailand.blogspot.com/2010/01/corrections-department-appeals-that.html)

A charge was bought to the Administration Supreme Court by inmate Somchai Phumsawai (Red Case #1618/2550 and Black Case #1304/2552 - necessary details for those of you who see fit to question whether I'm bullshitting or not) I only know of the details of Somchai's struggles from "Tommy", D2's very own human rights legal campaigner. Tommy was actively monitoring Somchai's appeal to have the shackles removed on behalf of Bang Kwang's (then) 800+ Death Row inmates; In such a case each prisoner who is shackled would not automatically have their chains removed even when they Supreme Court ruled in Somchai's favour. Every single one of them would have to bring their own, lengthy and extremely costly, cases for an individual ruling. What is more, each one would have to run a very vicious gauntlet from the screws of intimidation and beatings designed to make them abandon their appeals.

Very often, as we prisoners know full well, our families will be targeted also. It isn't just Thai inmates whose families are constantly threatened by the screws though. As this cowardly technique is very effective in forcing prisoners to be subservient, the screws are very keen to adopt a similar policy towards the Thai wives and children of foreign inmates. A fair percentage of us in Bang Kwang and Lat Yao that I know of are in this position, having been long term Thailand residents before our arrests. Virtually all foreigners are "safe" as their Embassies refuse to divulge Thai family details to the Police and D.O.C officers. Not so however the British Passport Owners. The Foreign and Commonwealth Officer, Kate Dufall sees it as her duty to terrorise our families by "dropping the dime" whenever her inmate informers can find out the necessary addresses. I should know, she has been trying with me ever since 2004 and this is one of the many reason I have little or no contact with the British Embassy.

But that's for another blog.

Be well and Be Happy

Gary

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Repatriation to the UK

At some stage during their incarceration all Britons will consider whether to repatriate from Thailand back to the UK. After cursory research the majority reject the facility. Those that feel that possibly they have an advantage by doing so formalise their intentions by requesting that Mrs Dufall of the Embassy initiates the request by contacting the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) – a division of the UK Ministry of Justice overseeing the incarceration of offenders in British Prisons.

We British inmates in Thai jails have been told by Mrs Dufall that this is the official process and nearly all accept this verbal statement. However, this is untrue. An applicant, such as myself, is free to submit their intention directly to NOMS and therefore bypass the British Embassy.

What is impressed on us is that NOMS can arbitrarily decide, without stating any reason whatsoever, to reject the application. Whilst this contingency is permitted for by the UK/Thai repatriation treaty, I find it impossible to accept that a British Civil Servant could wilfully exercise the prerogative, without having (as one of my supporters stated) “A bloody good reason to do so” Even then the said Civil Servant would be required to divulge the justification.

That the charity Prisoners Abroad (P.A.) emphatically bolster this conceit is a sad reflection on their impartiality. P.A. Goes on to imply that NOMS could easily prevent a British National repatriating on the basis that the applicant can not demonstrate existing familial ties with other full nationals back in the UK. This is Bollox.

I freely admit that when it comes to the UK's Ministry of (In)Justice and its foreign service the Foreign and Commonwealth Office I adamantly debate the lack of any form of willingness to serve the best interests of their paymasters, the British Taxpayer. The term “jobsworths” comes to mind. One only has to reference the recent case of Stephen Ingram and Xi Lin and Mrs Dufall's refusal to acknowledge that they were being imprisoned illegally by the Royal Thai Police to concur with my argument (http://www.andrew-drummond.com/tag/stephen-ingram/).

As such I can only accept one explanation as to why they persist in giving wrong information regarding repatriation – Control.

By sowing the seeds of doubt that it is not automatic for our Government to accept us back into a British gaol, Mrs Dufall wields a very large Damoclean Sword to ensure our compliance with how she interprets British Foreign Office policy towards UK Nationals in Thai jails. That this has been successful for many, many years is evident from a recent request under the Freedom of Information Act to NOMS. In it the question was asked:

Since the 6th February 1991 when the United Kingdom - Thailand Prisoner Transfer Agreement came into force, how many UK citizens have the UK Government refused to repatriate from Thai prisons to UK prisons and for what reasons?

The answer which came back was:

Since Bilateral Agreement on the Transfer of Offenders and on Co-operation in the Enforcement of Penal Sentences between the Kingdom of Thailand and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland came into force in 1991 the Ministry of Justice has not refused any British citizen’s application for repatriation to the United Kingdom.“

Contrary me, daring to be different, refuses to comply with Mrs Dufall's directive. Lets see if I'm the first to be summarily rejected by NOMS

Torture by the Royal Thai Police and its acceptance by the UK Government

Due to the troubles in Thailand recently we have not heard much from Gary and so updates have been sparse. However, things are getting back to normal and we have a few blogs to upload as and when we get the chance. In the meantime here is an article by Erika Fry about the routine use of torture by the Royal Thai Police to force people to sign confessions of guilt.

http://www.ahrchk.net/ahrc-in-news/mainfile.php/2006ahrcinnews/763/

This is important as the British Government's stance is that they do not help people who have pled guilty in the Thai Courts. This means they will not support any requests for a Kings Pardon by British Nationals and without the UK Governments support these requests fail.

By not recognizing that the guilty admissions were obtained by torture and then not supporting their own subjects afterwards due to the admission of guilt the UK Government is effectively condoning the torture of British Nationals.

Article written by Jake

Saturday, 10 April 2010

A Message from Jake

Some of you may have noticed that the blog has gone quiet. This is not intentional but is due to a few problems.

Some of you may be aware of the political unrest in Thailand. If not, it seems that the Red Shirts, who are supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra the deposed Premier, are trying to force an election to ultimately force the Yellow Shirts out of power. Couple this unrest with the fact that the Thai King has been in hospital after an extended illness and you can see the disruption this may cause. I recommend the Political Prisoners in Thailand website (http://thaipoliticalprisoners.wordpress.com/) for news about what is going on there.

Incidentally despite warning UK travellers of the possibility of bomb and grenades in Central Bangkok and of trouble in other outlying areas, the FCO is only advising travellers to exercise extra caution. (http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/asia-oceania/thailand). I mean we wouldn’t want to harm the tourist trade now would we?

Since January we, the supporters of Gary have been unable to get letters and parcels through to him, and he to us. We don’t know why and letters and emails to the British Embassy in Thailand and Prisoners Abroad here in the UK have been met with Silence. We can only speculate the reasons that his mail isn’t getting through when post to other prisoners in Bang Kwang is getting through with no issues.

We received one letter from him just two days ago however. In it he stated he had been hit over the head with a glass bottle by another prisoner and had had to spend time in D12, the hospital block. He has a concussion and difficulty seeing through one eye but assures us he is getting better and has been released back to his cell in D2.

The attacker it seems wanted to be moved from the prison block D2 due to the fact he owed money and under the rules if he attacked someone, the prison authorities would move him. So he knifed some poor individual last week and when he wasn’t moved, attacked Gary this week.

Normal Service will be resumed as soon as possible, we hope

Be Well

Jake

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The Royal Thai Police

It is amazing the number of times that stories of bribery and corruption appear in Thai Newspapers. Currently only those stories that affect the opposition make the Newspapers and it is only thanks to the efforts of other websites (like Political Prisoners in Thailand http://thaipoliticalprisoners.wordpress.com/ ) that any other stories get out.

However, a high proportion of these stories involve the Royal Thai Police. Bribery, corruption, protection rackets and even murder are not uncommon to be reported when they are found out.

Last year the political events in Thailand overshadowed news that came out in January of 2009 about the Thai Police having to arrest other officers that were working as a kidnap gang. It is was reported that these Border patrolmen abused their positions to extract Bt8.7 Million and many people had been wrongly imprisoned (and are still being held) as a direct result of extortion and kidnapping by the Border patrol group called Patrol 41.

The case of Toby Chaurnaud is a case in point about how the failings of the Thai Police affect the UK ex pat communities and there are other stories that I could point to including one from July this year concerning a scam at Bangkok Airport that seemed to operate with the Thai Police tacit approval.

Now the Royal Thai Police are implicated yet again, this time in a robbery from a Saudi Royal Palace, a crime that is 20 years old and has caused major friction between Saudi Arabia and Thailand for a long time.

From the BBC News Website "First there was the theft - $20m (£12.5m) worth of jewels, including a very rare blue diamond, taken from a Saudi palace and smuggled into Thailand in 1989.

The thief was caught and much of the jewelry was recovered.

But most of what was returned to Saudi Arabia turned out to be fake.

The following year, three Saudi diplomats in Thailand were murdered and a Saudi businessman, Mohammad al-Ruwaili, disappeared." (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/8454240.stm)

Both the Bangkok Post and the Nation have also reported the news of the arrests and imminent prosecutions (http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/165089/suspects-in-al-ruwaili-case-indicted and http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2010/01/12/politics/politics_30120149.php )

Further evidence exists that the Thai Police regularly "fit up" foreigners on trumped up drugs charges as the bonus rewards they get are too good to pass up. One source has quoted Bt10,000 per kilo of drugs per Farang.

Her Majesty's Government (HMG) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) still persist however in trusting the Royal Thai Police and operate under the misguided allusion that they are never to be questioned, in fact a memo was sent to the Embassy in Thailand from the FCO informing them to never question the methods of the Royal Thai Police, something they adhere to with amazing exactness.

One has to question however how long this kowtowing to the Thai Police can be allowed to continue in the light of the scandals that have come to light in the last few years. My guess is, based on the HMG's previous performance, indefinitely.

Bridget