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

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