The foreigner with probably the best knowledge of the inside of the Central Women’s Correctional Institution in Bangkok is former Miss South African finalist Venessa Goosen. She was arrested in 1994 at the airport with 2.7kg of heroin in her possession. She was initially sentenced to 50 years in the female section of Klong Prem Prison. Over the years she received a series of pardons until finally, after 16 years, she was sent home. A year later, another Souther African, Nolubabalo Nobanda, has just been arrested at Suvarnabhumi Airport for allegedly carrying 1.5kg of cocaine in her dreadlocks. Speaking to a South African newspaper, Vanessa tells what it was like in the women’s prison and gives some advice for Nolubabalo and her family.
“Nolubabalo will have a tough time. No-one speaks English. The police and the warders only speak their mother tongue. This is terrifying because you cannot understand anything. She will be taken to the local police station where new prisoners are kept in a filthy, dark basement for up to seven days. There is no mattress or pillows, just the cold floors. Most times the food is contaminated. Goosen claimed the policemen were also very forward and loved “touching women prisoners”.
“At court the language barrier is also a problem. I signed stacks of paperwork that was in [Thai]. I could not understand a word.” Prisoners were then taken to the prison where “the real hell starts”. “You are stripped naked. Violated in every possible way as a doctor, assisted by prisoners, search your entire body for drugs. All your possessions are taken away. All you are left with is a prison uniform.” Nobanda would have to pay for food, toiletries and water. “Nothing is free. If you don’t have money, you starve. I hope Nolubabalo gets cash from her family.”
“Our government does not have a prisoner transfer treaty with countries like Thailand and China. Their hands are also tied because the offenders are tried by the laws of the country they are arrested in.” Goosen said new prisoners found it hard to adjust and suffered severe mental torture at the hands of the authorities and veteran prisoners. “It’s one year since I am home. But, I am still adjusting to normal life. I had to get used to using a cellphone and other technology.
Full story: www.iol.co.za
Yesterday, South Africa’s ambassador to Thailand, Douglas Gibson, was allowed to visit Nobanda after she was transferred to the Women’s Prison in Bangkok. “I am glad to say that Ms Nobanda is in good health and is bearing up well in very difficult circumstances.” He said the embassy expected that Nobanda would appear in court regularly, every 12 days for the next few months. “It will accordingly be many months before the matter comes to trial. We will continue giving consular assistance and doing whatever we can to help. This includes reporting on her wellbeing to our authorities, acting as a conduit for money sent to her by the family, arranging for any medical care that she might need in the future, helping her to register for studies, if she wishes to study, arranging visits by family members and generally doing whatever we can to be kind and caring about a South African in trouble,” he said.
Full story: www.witness.co.za
Related Blog: Inside the Women’s Prison in Bangkok by Frank Lombard