A man recently released from Khlong Prem says that though pricey, mobiles are standard gear and the guards are fully aware of it
Let’s call him Bait. He’s a Thai man in his early 30s who recently served five years at Khlong Prem Prison in Bangkok on a narcotics charge. Bait left prison before the floods of November 2011. He says that in his prison zone everyone had access to a mobile phone. About one-third of prisoners owned one, he says, while the rest shared. Bait said both convicts and prison staff knew exactly what was going on, and that officials controlled the supply of mobile phones in the prison and ignored their use.
The Khlong Prem complex has yet to experience a full-scale police raid such as the much publicised raids at Nakhon Si Thammarat provincial prison late last month.
Bait spoke to Spectrum about his experiences:
How did you acquire your first mobile phone?
I was there for two years borrowing telephone services at 1,000 baht per hour, and then decided I really needed one of my own for the remaining three years. The staff officer in charge got one for me for 50,000 baht. I arranged a cash payment through my relatives.
It is really a rental agreement. The same official would return and demand additional compensation. In the five years I was in prison there was very little staff rotation.
In my last three years, the total cost, including the acquisition charge, amounted to 100,000 baht. This works out to a monthly rental rate of 2,800 baht over 36 months of usage. I know others who paid even more.
How did you conceal the phone?
All of us carried our phones on our person day and night. Inspection was a perfunctory matter. They did not want to find anything embarrassing. If they saw us using it they usually did not pay any attention.
If by chance officials did decide to enforce the rules it would mean a session in Kung Soi [punishment room]. This was not too bad; no daytime release, just confinement to the same home cell for 24 hours.
Did you have any prison raids while there? Were police involved?
There was one raid every month. It was done by the Corrections Department with no police involvement. They would find loose items in the lockers or cells, but no mobiles because there were no body searches.
How did you recharge the unit? Did prison staff know about this?
I had my own recharger. Electric outlets can be tapped from lighting, fans or TVs. Prison guards showed no interest in these activities. They kept their part of the deal.
How often did you use it? Who did you call? When?
I used it two to three times a day, making both incoming and outgoing calls. I would often ask the other party to call back to conserve the balance on my SIM. I was calling friends, relatives and my girlfriend. Most calls were made at night. We go to our cells at 4pm and stay locked up until 5am.
Did anyone use phones for drug trafficking?
Although we had a mafia structure, I doubt there was any serious trafficking. I was in a narcotics zone of small-time pushers. I could often overhear them talking about money transfers but that is all.
Did your mobile have any special features like video or GPS?
We had no video and GPS was forbidden.
Was it true your phone was taken away from you from time to time?
Yes, in three years, I had three different phones and 10 different SIMs.
Was there any jamming? Did you fear anyone was listening in?
There was minimal signal interference both day and night. We had no fear that anyone was listening in.
A few questions on general conditions at Khlong Prem. Was sleeping OK? How many to a cell? Were the trustees strict?
Sleeping was very tight, shoulder-to-shoulder with 60 to a cell. I have no complaints about the trustees.
Any beatings by guards?
Yes, a few times a year. The subject would be asked to lie down and was beaten on the back.
He would not be allowed to go to the doctor. The trustees did not participate in beatings.
Were there fights between prisoners?
Yes, they were numerous fights, but weapons were seldom used except by crazy inmates. I know of no murders or suicides.
What was the drug situation?
We had supplies of heroin and ice [crystal methamphetamine]. There was very little ya ba in tablet form.
How was your sex life while in prison?
We frequently used telephone sex services where an anonymous female stimulates male fantasies. Transvestites were available during the day.