Thailand Authorities to Crackdown on Jail Phone Sex

February 10, 2012
By

Although it is illegal, mobile phones have been used in Thai prisons for a long time. These have been smuggled into prisons in various ways. In the picture above, two men demonstrate how they used a remote control plane to fly mobile phones into a prison. In other places, the phones were thrown over the wall. Sometimes stuffed in dead animals such as frogs. Prison wardens have also been implicated in selling mobile phones to inmates. They buy cheap second-hand ones in the market and then sell them to inmates from about 10,000 Baht upwards. Mobile phones that can connect to the Internet demand higher prices.

Some inmates share the cost of a mobile phone with a group of friends to make it cheaper. Battery chargers go for about 2,000 Baht each. Alternatively, inmates can pay to use the chargers of other prisoners. Obviously the cells don’t have any power sockets. So, the plug has to be cut off and then attached to any electrical wires that they can find. Inmates don’t keep the SIM cards in the mobile phones and when they have finished using them, they will hide the mobile phone and SIM card in separate places. The SIM cards are pre-paid with numbers that cannot be traced back to anyone. All they have to do is ask a relative or friend on the outside to top up their SIM at the local 7-Eleven. All they need is the phone number. They don’t need to show any i.d.

The newspapers have been full of stories saying that the inmates are using these mobile phones for drug dealing. The drug business is all about trust and who you know. The big drug dealers on the inside hardly ever touched the drugs themselves. All they have to do is telephone one person to go and pick some drugs up and then deliver to a certain person at a predefined place. They then call someone else to pick the drugs up and arrange payment. All of this can be done from the inside. However, not all of the inmates are using their mobile phone for the drug trade. There are plenty of other reasons too.

When relatives come to visit their loved ones, they are only allowed a maximum of 20 minutes. However, as the prisons are so overcrowded, there are more people wanting to visit than there are hours in the day. Visits can only be made on week days. If there is a public holiday, like Songkran then prisons are closed for longer. On busy days, the prison authorities will try and rush through the visits. As a consequence, at some prisons, relatives and friends will only get a five or ten minute visit. And for that, you have to wait at least two hours or more.

So, that is why more and more prisoners are buying mobile phones. It is difficult to have accurate numbers, however, in just the last four months alone, over 1,500 mobile phones were confiscated in Thai prisons. These days, the mobile phones of choice are ones that can connect to the Internet such as Blackberry and Nokia. They are using these to chat with their girlfriends. They are also using the latest phones to take pictures and post them on their Facebook pages. They are of course very careful with the privacy settings on these pages.

Mobile phones with front facing cameras are becoming more popular as they can be used to make video calls. Just the other day, authorities at Angthong Prison confiscated four iPhone 4 phones.  According to a report in the Bangkok Post this morning, Corrections Department head Suchart Wong-anantchai said some inmates used mobile phones to make video calls to their girlfriends and then masturbate. They are using programs such as Skype and Facetime on the iPhone to do this. The Corrections Department have promised a crackdown on this.

Maybe if the Corrections Department did something about the very short visiting hours then prisoners wouldn’t have resorted to buying mobile phones. Or at least they should allow prisoners to use public phones once a week like they can in other countries.