A Foreigner in a Thai Prison

November 3, 2007

The following is an account of life in Samut Prakan Central Prison sent to us by an American:

I was arrested at the airport which is the same for most, if not all foreigners, who for various reasons find themselves in the Samut Prakan Central Prison.  I was first detained and questioned in a small police station inside the airport.  Then I was cuffed and driven in the backseat of a pick up truck to the nearby police station for holding and further questioning.  I stayed here in a small holding cell for two nights and one full day.  On my third day since the arrest I was taken to the nearby court that I originally thought was the prison but at about 4:30pm I realized we were being transported to the actual prison miles away.

Inside this large holding cell at the court nearly fifty people waited to be called up to the small window where they would then be given a chance to speak with a Judge.  Everyone who had come to the court from the prison was wearing shackles, which sent an immediate fear into me above all the other fears I already felt.  Luckily I learned that the shackles were only on for the day of someone’s court date to prevent a prisoner from trying to run for freedom and are removed on the night they returned.

Once we were put in a single file, after being counted, we were ordered into the Paddy Wagon or Prison Bus.  People get a last chance speak with their loved ones here as they yell to them for the last time before being visited behind bars. The prisoners are inside the bus and the friends or family ten feet away, behind a fence.  This is where I waved goodbye to my loved one.  We were truly jammed into the bus and had little room to breathe or move at all, it was horrible.

Once at the prison I was able to check my valuables in at a desk and signed for them to be held.  I only had a few hundred baht as I wasn’t planning on staying as long as I did.  We were then given clothes to change into and fed a green curry that night.  We left our own clothes and whatever else we had in a box and I was honestly surprised and relieved to get my bag of stuff back the next day as I had already not been allowed to retrieve my sandals from the prison bus, on arriving at the prison.  That night all of the new prisoners who had come that day slept in the head Trustees cell before being assigned new cells the following day.

The next morning all of the new people had to stick together and go through a small orientation process, filling out personal information and learning the rules and regulations.  In the afternoon we were given our own clothes and were released into the prison to go our separate ways if we wanted to.  I walked around confused and in disbelief and sat to try and read my book.  I was immediately befriended by other foreign prisoners who also shared the same experience as I described coming from the airport.

I bonded with a lot of people in the prison both foreigners and Thai alike. This is obviously where I met Gor and was befriended by him as well.  I was never physically assaulted or felt threatened inside the prison.  I was terrified of horrible things possibly taking place but instead found all the opposite.  I guess everyone had realized that we were already in a bad position and there was no need to make matters wore for others.  I’m not saying I’m naive to the fact that bad things can and do happen inside Klong Don, or any other prisons for that matter.  I’m just saying nothing horrible happened to me.  The food also was obviously not exquisite but it was also much better that I had anticipated.

Perhaps these semi decent descriptions I’ve described are because this prison is fairly new and because things have changed in the past ten years in Thailand in contrary to the books I have read about other peoples experiences in Thai prisons.  Klong Don is also not a maximum security prison and most of the people there find themselves charged with minor sentences compared to life or ten plus years.  This is what I was led to believe at least and think it’s the case, at least in the area of the prison I was in.  My biggest problem in the first few days was the fact that I found it really hard to fall asleep in the cramped room right next to another prisoner and with florescent light bulbs above our heads.  I adapted to this difficulty as well and found myself able to sleep once absolutely exhausted.

If you have a loved one inside the prison know that I am sorry as I was once in their same position.  Send them letters and love and don’t give up on them.  They will survive.  There most difficult pain is the fact that they can’t communicate with you or that you might not even know where they are.

10 Responses to A Foreigner in a Thai Prison

  1. Richard sellers
    December 12, 2011 at 5:21 am

    Is this your personal experience Richard, I was also in prison in Thailand, but I was in klong prem remand section, it was an experience I will never forget.

    • Richard Barrow
      December 12, 2011 at 7:00 am

      No, a foreigner sent in his own experience which I posted here. Would you like to do the same?

  2. January 20, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    My name is Pablo Flores, I am a Journalist/producer for a local tv station in Chile. We are currently working in a documentary about Chilean citizens who are serving time in different prisons around the world. I would appreciate if you can help with some information regarding this. The consulate doesn´t have any information about it, Thank you very much for your time.

    • Richard Barrow
      January 22, 2012 at 10:49 am

      This is the top 10 for foreign nationals in Thai prisons:

      1. Myanmar (3,787)
      2. Lao (1,994)
      3. Cambodia (1,445)
      4. Malaysia (325)
      5. China (252)
      6. Singapore (115)
      7. Nigeria (94)
      8. Taiwan (91)
      9. Vietnam (85)
      10. Ghana (65)

      I’m afraid that is all we have.

      • obiora nwoye
        July 23, 2016 at 5:07 pm

        My in-law by name Ejiofor Ifeanyi Michael, is in Bangkok prison in Thailand.

  3. Jack
    June 2, 2013 at 5:22 am

    how I can help this people ?

  4. Domenici
    July 28, 2013 at 9:53 am

    Don’t help them.m

  5. Al
    December 22, 2013 at 2:04 am

    Domenici, youre a twat.

  6. angel
    February 25, 2016 at 6:29 pm

    please i need information of a brothers excution in thai klog prem prison we havent had from him for long how do i search or go about it.

  7. Percy DeZoysa
    October 12, 2016 at 10:14 am

    My son Ashan DeZoysa has been missing in Thailand. He left Los Angeles for Bangkok 2-1/2 yrs. ago. He’s a U.S. citizen. 30 yrs. old, 6′-5″, 210 lbs. Sri Lankan-American. I have a sneaky feeling he may be in a prison in Thailand. Has anyone heard anything about him? REWARD!

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