16-year Hell in a Thai Prison for Women

December 16, 2011

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


48 Responses to 16-year Hell in a Thai Prison for Women

  1. 4man
    December 20, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    if you don’t want to do the time….don’t do the crime. Suck it up….you made your choices.

    • Rosy
      February 18, 2012 at 6:57 am

      People make mistakes.

      • concern
        July 3, 2012 at 9:51 pm

        some mistakes cost lives, destroyed families and society and need to be punish. Intentional ‘mistakes’ like this need severe punishment.

      • Mogu
        September 17, 2012 at 1:22 pm

        over a kilogram of hard drugs smuggled over international borders doesn’t sound like it was done by mistake

      • Hot Lips
        February 3, 2013 at 6:02 pm

        When you replied to that person’s comment about can’ do the crime then don’t do the crime and you replied about people making mistakes, to me they’re aren’t any mistakes here because those people know what the are doing. So the deserves everything that is coming to them.

    • Ran RAn
      February 9, 2013 at 9:57 am

      when you find yourself in trouble, may the first thing you hear be “suck it up”

    • ron pinson
      February 17, 2014 at 8:51 am

      some we don’t even do a crime, you every think of that. FOOL!

  2. Ofentse tswai
    February 6, 2012 at 12:33 am

    Whatever ul be doing 4 her must be done to other South Africans in foreign prisons.

  3. rosh
    February 16, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    yea its easy for idiots to say if you want to do the crime you must serve the time when in all honesty you have no idea what it is all all about. I was born in prison in bangkok any my mother is still serving time there . it has been 19 years now. People murder and get bail, or like 4 years so instead of being narrow minded think before you make a comment because im sure in all do respect you could never grasp the hurt

    • D
      August 22, 2012 at 11:53 pm

      Crime is crime you know you will be punished so there is no excuse.

      • colin
        November 24, 2012 at 6:58 pm

        yes crime is a crime but time handed out is absurb. Ever heard of second chance. only idiot think they knows everythibg but practically an empty vessel.

        • Dominic
          July 28, 2013 at 9:45 am

          If you don’t think the sentences are fair, don’t omit crimes

    • Southern Julia
      September 5, 2012 at 10:51 pm

      they are idiots. Morons. yeah, do the time, but 50 years for carrying around heroin? people who possess heroin in the U.S. just be sent to a drug treatment program for 6 mos. I wonder why U.S. is considered better than Thailand.

      Yes, drug smuggling is pretty stupid, but these punishments are stupider. To anyone who says just suck it up: i hope you get like 100 years with the key thrown away next time you get arrested!

      • Dominic
        July 28, 2013 at 9:47 am

        Death is a fair sentence for dealing in drugs. Drugs destroy lives, communities and nations. Drugs finance terror gangs and cartels that kill thousands of people. 50 years is far too lenient

    • jnrb
      September 30, 2015 at 8:25 pm

      I once saw the destruction caused by a father (in his 40’s) who was on drugs. At 6am in the winter morning he was standing naked on the stoep smashing glass doors to pieces. When his 5 year old son asked him “daddy why are you doing this?” he hit the child to the ground. His wife tried to calm him but he hit her as well. He then tried to throw his 9 month old baby off the stoep but the neighbours stopped him. He couldn’t hold a job, had no money left because of his drug habit and the only thing he offered his family was senseless violence and abuse. The kids were traumatised and couldn’t attend school because there was no money left to pay school fees. Drugs ruins lives and destroy families. These drug mules are out to make a quick buck at the expense of others’ misery. They must take what they get.

  4. Twat
    March 3, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    In my opinion, no one should do life in a prison cell unless they do something really terrible. Murder, violent rapists or sadists… But not drugs. Regardless of quantity, why would a dealer/distributor be given any more then 10 years is beyond me. Just my two cents…Great site by the way.

    • Steve
      March 13, 2012 at 7:19 am

      The Thai’s see a murderer as a person who has taken one life, but view drugs as the murderer of many lives, families and communitys.

      • PeTha
        October 3, 2012 at 1:03 pm

        The Thais have a culture that has adapted to opium and cannabis without any of the harm these drugs are said to cause in the West. This says a great deal about the wisdom inherent in Thai culture and equally as much about the brutal intolerance inherent in parts of Western culture.

        Allow your culture to modernise in keeping with your Sangha and Bhumipol Rama IX. Beware of farang bearing gifts.

  5. March 15, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    You are in my prayers Babsie you will be pardoned you wont eve do time there. Love you galfreind. Power to you

  6. S. Chowdhury
    March 16, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    Sadly, nobody talks about being framed up here. Lots of persons (particularly foreigners) are framed up by drug dealers and wrongly implicated then. So I guess this is also the case with these ladies here, particularly with the kind of corrupt officials present there working in cahoots with drug dealers.

    • March 28, 2012 at 2:46 pm

      “She was arrested in 1994 at the airport with 2.7kg of heroin in her possession” – how can this be framed?! She was (maybe still is) an idiot trying to make cash fast by being a mule

      • Tali McCall
        April 25, 2012 at 5:11 am

        I have worked for the Department of Corrections Public Safety for over 35 years. As human beings we do stupid things and the hope is we learn from our mistakes. To negate the personal experience of making mistakes and learning is short sighted. Some men and women are criminals and may never learn however there are many men and women who do learn. To change one person in a family begins a chain reaction and the entire family changes. Yep I would agre this individual did indeed know what she was doing and made a terrible mistake. Is it really necessary that she pay with her life?

        • Dominic
          July 28, 2013 at 9:48 am

          Yes. Because drugs the many many lives. Anyone who smuggles drugs is involved in murder.

          • Matt Jansan
            April 12, 2016 at 8:00 pm

            smoke weed everidai

      • Harder
        August 5, 2012 at 6:41 pm

        @Gadgets: you may guess whether or not she is an idiot, but the fact of the matter is that the drugs where hidden in a stack of books she was bringing from BKK back to SA for someone else. The person who asked her to do this doesn’t deny this, and I know them both. So she was certainly very naive, but not an idiot. Idiots are people who think they are very smart when in reality they are very stupid and have no knowledge about the things they feel obliged to comment on. In this case, that would be you.

  7. chante
    April 13, 2012 at 3:06 am

    Sad part is the mules are mostly arrested and subjected to tough times in foreign countries when the kingpins are left in SA(being foreigners) living large and when arrested they get to benefit the luxuries of our prisons

    • Dominic
      July 28, 2013 at 9:49 am

      Yes so they should just say no.

  8. Maggie
    June 18, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    May God gives u and your family the strength through this trying time. You are in my prayers Babsie. Be strong. No one is perfect as we all humans and bound to make mistakes.

  9. Hot Lips
    October 6, 2012 at 3:05 am

    She knew the consequences when he took the drugs, so why take them. Okay your stuck up for cash but no amount of money is worth spending the rest of your life in a Thai hellhole. So as some of the other replies say, if you can’t do the time then don’t do the crime, it’ as easy as that.

  10. Bobby
    November 15, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    im almost 100% sure that all the people that say “if u cant do the time dont do the crime” have never been to prison, but have sure as hell committed some crime in their life. in this life there are doctors, lawyers, average joe’s working a day shift, etc. and there are criminals, there is no middle ground, if youre gonna commit a crime make sure its worth it or get a job and stay away from it all.

    • Dominic
      July 28, 2013 at 9:50 am

      Yes but these people were caught. That is what we are discussing. Not others who should have been caught.

  11. November 18, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    Another casualty in the ‘war on drugs’. Waste of a life for no reason.

  12. steve powell
    November 19, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    Sadly, another tragic waste of a life. Its all too easy for someone to say ‘if you cant do the time, dont blah blah blah’. Who knows what kind of life this person has had before making this very bad decision. Were they forced??? Do they have learning difficulties which make it hard for them to understand the consequences of the decision they’re making???? WHO KNOWS. Its just plain ignorance to assume that they knew exactly what they were getting into. Leave the Judgement to God!!!!!!!!

  13. January 1, 2013 at 11:47 pm

    As having a wife who is currently serving 3 years for 6gms possesion of “Ice”7 having worked in Thailand as a Gov’t High School Teacher for a few years to boot,i am quite aware of the Prison system by now!I neither condemn or accept.
    The reality is there is a major drugs problem there!
    Places such as Pattaya has become a cesspit of all manner of undesirables from all corners of the globe & as such Prostitution,Gambling,Drugs & corruption all go hand in hand.
    Do not try to equate Western ideals into the equation here!Your only hope is that you can put large sums of money to people in high places.(Before the trial date!)Otherwise you do the time,hopefully with remission
    My door is always open for advice & will always try to help families of incarcerated persons.
    If you wish to contact me for help or advice:
    God Bless!

    • P Kahle
      September 1, 2013 at 2:14 pm

      My girl friend is currently serving 5 years for a drug setup in a room she wasn’t even staying in . Just because the lease was in her name they presume the drugs were hers it didn’t matter that there were four girls staying in the room at the time and it was a bit strange the police new exactly where to find the drugs as they walked straight to it . How do you beat corruption ?

  14. Kerry
    January 10, 2013 at 4:56 am

    Ignorance is bliss don’t you think.. It takes a buyer and a dealer to get the end result of a drug… Yes they take lives but you also know the consiquences of taking them so dealer can’t simply take the full blame.. Jail may be necessary and yes ppl know the risks but just because u make 1 bad decision of this small capacity does not simply mean you should have t
    Not only your life but your human rights taken away from you… I have read many story’s regarding thie jails and a cockroach wouldn’t be fit to live in them conditions let alone a huma being…. I sounder if your mind would be changed if it was someone close to you … As I said ignorance is bliss… It could happen to anyone…

  15. oksana
    January 31, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    I can see that most of you people you can judge..but you may forget that is only God who can Judge all these people) it is eassy for you to say But you don’t even realize how it is to say in that place where around you is Death) I have been in that world for 13 years and I was 20 when I get there for a crime I never even knew about..

    • Dominic
      July 28, 2013 at 9:51 am

      God judges the soul. You cannot seriously take that to meancrime should not be punished.

  16. Hot Lips
    February 3, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    To me that woman knew that he was smuggling those drugs so to me she deserves what is coming to her, because she can’t say she ever knew that she had them on her.

  17. Lee
    March 15, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    Everything happens for a reason, I hope and believe that the’ll be a best outcome out of this. Be strong, pray hard, avoid the negativity coming from people, I’m sure God has forgiven you already, will pray for your safety. Love u Babsie

  18. mmuntz
    April 13, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    let those without sin cast the first stone we are all sinner,s

    • Dominic
      July 28, 2013 at 9:51 am

      Not relevant unless you think all crimes should go unpunished.

  19. Jhampton
    July 2, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    Do you people honestly believe that this lady was dealing? Did you read the court transcripts and listen to the interviews? Do you, most importantly, believe that the Thai judicial system is without corruption (forcing people to make statements of guilt, particularly, for the purposes of money exchanging hands) and discrimination? Most people know the risks involved stepping foot onto Thai soil, including being set-up. You are rediculous if you believe that the Thai government is fair, and telling from the discrimination I read about, despises foreigners. Get real, get some education, stop buying into Thai propaganda that is so clearly rediculous to the rest of the world. WAKE UP.

  20. Craig
    August 15, 2013 at 6:11 am

    Prison is not meant to be the punishment. The sentence is supposed take away your freedom – that’s it. Every prison should give inmates a clean, safe environment and be protected from harm. you should not endure years of suffering, abuse or starvation. People in the UK complain that UK prisoners have it too easy. So many don’t understand what prisons are for. Even in America who adopted are legal procedures dress prisoners up in bright clothing to humiliate them. Prisoners are still human beings and people of all walks of life may find themselves on the wrong side of the law. I would say almost all of us have done something we could be of been jailed for. In Dubai this could be holding hands or having some prescribed medication. We are all human and we have progressed from being animals to a civilized nation through empathy to our fellow man and respect for each other.

  21. arthur
    February 20, 2016 at 6:41 am

    People make mistake yes and my heart goes to my aunt Mary Anyango she is serving a life imprisonment in Bangkok I wish there is something that can be done or any refaral that can be made she comes back n serve it in Kenya.pls anybody with idea on how she can be sent 4 money contact on +254712564045 she has been there for 5years now

  22. Robert Burke
    March 14, 2016 at 3:42 am

    Anyone who does not have compassion or concern for the atrocities these women go through is an absolute moron. No one anywhere should have to endure such horrid conditions or be subjected to this barbaric treatment. Its so easy for women to be used or framed in this country. You all for opinions about something you know nothing about. I was born in prison and my mother was arrested and imprisoned simply for being a teenage party girl. Not one law was broken when they jailed her.

  23. E
    August 15, 2016 at 4:31 pm

    Does people know the hole story of these people. Stop being so quick to judge and try to convince our goverment to get a transfer triety. The perpetrayters dont say they wouldn’t seve time just under better circumstances. Do any one know what it is to buy water, just to servive .Please South Africans lets stand together and help the families of these people that make mistakes, if you dont make any.

  24. Eric
    December 22, 2016 at 3:26 pm

    I have been visiting persons at Klong Prem since 2009. Some were and are from South Africa; others were from other developing nation. Those from the EU and the US are transferred home and typically receive shorter sentences. Some knew what they were doing but were desperate enough to take the risk. Others were victims or deceit, including designed “busts” to frame them while a larger shipment slipped through. I have met more than 20 persons and every story is unique. Let us not be too quick to judge.

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