Visiting Gor in Klong Dan Prison

September 23, 2006
By

Klong Dan Prison

Samut Prakan Central Prison, Klong Dan

The old prison in Samut Prakan is just down the road from me. All that remains are portions of the wall and the guard towers. They were supposed to turn the place into a public park. But that was about three or four years ago and nothing has happened. The new prison is now 30 kms outside of the city. It is at a place called Klong Dan which is literally in the middle of no-where. However, if you don’t have your own transport it is easier enough to reach there on a public bus. I went there on Friday 15th September with Gor’s mother and his girlfriend. His mother had been to visit him a few days before, and while she was there she had booked a visit for us.

At Klong Dan, you are only allowed to visit prisoners between Monday and Friday. Not at the weekend. This must be awkward for many people, as like me, they would have to take time of work in order to visit the prison. The morning session, between 8.30 a.m. and 12.00 p.m., is for visiting male prisoners. The afternoon session, between 12.00 p.m. and 3.00 p.m. is for visiting female prisoners. Obviously not so many women prisoners here. I read on a sign that there are 13 rounds in the morning. The posted times showed me that we would be allowed 20 minutes for our visit. The waiting room was already very full with people waiting to visit someone inside. Some of them were sitting down on benches and others were milling around by a door that obviously led to the visiting rooms.

A sign by the door gave some rules for visiting. We weren’t allowed to take in mobile phones or cameras. I had both in my pocket and wondered if it would be a problem. I didn’t have too long to ponder. As we had already booked our visit a few days before we didn’t have long to wait. Walking closer to the door I could see that people were staring at some television screens on the other side. This was showing the visiting rooms inside the prison. I was expecting a guard to call out our number and then tell us to go in. However, as soon as the prisoners were spotted arriving everyone just rushed in. So much for my idea that they might do a body search!

Visitor's Room

Visiting Area for Relatives of Prisoners

I followed Gor’s mother to one of the waiting rooms but there was no sign of him waiting for us. We then went back to the entrance to ask the guard. We had gone to the wrong room and he pointed for us to go a different direction. We had just wasted five minutes and we would only be allowed a further 15 minutes between us. The visitors room was actually a surprise for me. I was expecting to be having a shouting match between two wire fences. That is how I think it is at some of the prisons in Bangkok. Here we had a granite counter which was split in half by a wall of bars, wire mesh and perspex glass. On each side were stalls for us to sit on and we even had the use of a telephone. Not only that, but the telephone was actually good quality. This made it easier to hear each other.

Gor’s mother spoke to him first. She updated him with news of the latest efforts to get him out. After five minutes came my turn. I didn’t really know what to say to him. It is difficult to chit chat when the clock is ticking. I asked him about his life in the prison. He said that it was much better now ever since his grandfather had been able to pull some strings. He had been assigned to work in the computer room. His job entailed typing up names of new prisoners on the database. He said he also had some older prisoners looking out for him. He asked if I could buy him some cigarettes in the prison shop as he needed them to pay people. I asked him about his prison cell. I had heard that these could get very crowded. He said there were 50 prisoners in the one cell. I asked if there was enough room for everyone to lie down and sleep, and he said there was. I wanted to ask him a lot more as I was so curious, but we were running out of time. He was obviously eager for his girlfriend to speak to him.

I sat down on some benches with his mother and looked around. In one far corner there was a camera. It didn’t look like that there was much security here. However, it didn’t really matter as we couldn’t pass anything to the prisoners through the perspex glass. I then spotted a couple of prisoners who didn’t have anyone to talk with. It looked like their relatives weren’t able to get there on time. Obviously they must have booked in advance like we did but something happened to delay them. I jokingly suggested to Gor’s mother that maybe she should go over and chat with them. So she did! They gave her a message and a phone numbers to ring. They said that they didn’t mind sitting there for twenty minutes as it broke up the routine of the day.

I was just wondering what happens when time is up when everyone started getting up from their chairs. Obviously the telephone line is cut after 20 minutes so that brings the conversation to a quick halt. There was only time for a quick farewell as the prisoners were led away. No-one stayed longer than they should. I suppose everyone was just making room for the next round of visitors to come. We then went outside to visit the prison shop. I had brought with me some snacks and reading material for him but his mother told me that it wasn’t possible to give him anything during the visit. We could only buy things in the prison shop or send something through the post office.

The way the prison shop works is that the shopkeeper gives you a form to fill out. You don’t actually get to see or touch any of the items. You have to trust them that they will pass it on. You can buy basic stuff like shampoo, toothpaste, underwear and even food. His mother said that he didn’t have a blanket to sleep with and so she had to buy him something. In order to survive in prison you have to literally pay for everything. The food is apparently really bad and most people pay for their own meals. On the order form I could see that a plate of fried rice was 20 baht and grilled chicken was 90 baht. Looked like the prison staff were doing good business here. I told his mother to put down ten packets of cigarettes for him and then gave her some money. I wasn’t sure what else to buy him. But she suggested it would be better if I put some money on his prison tab. That way he could use the money himself to buy what he needs. That made sense so I did that.

3 Responses to Visiting Gor in Klong Dan Prison

  1. Brendan
    December 16, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Hello,

    May I ask what one is permitted to present to an inmate please? Obviously cigarettes, sharp objects, pornographic material and other such matter is not permitted, that is just common sense. For example, can I take canned meat, fish and bags of nuts, dehydrated fruit and vegatables, large tins of coffee, “Milo” powder and fruit-juices, multi-vitamins, soaps, razors (disposable, not the “blade” type), toothbrushes and paste, towels and clothing? Are can-openers available to the prisoners, should I include one (the “winding” type, not the bladed piercing type. Am I allowed to supply a prisoner with bedding (not a King sized mattress) but a bed-roll, blanket, sheets and pillow such as one uses when camping? Forgive my ignorance on such matters, I would really like to know as I plan on returning to Thailand in a few monthes and wish to assist a life-serving Western prisoner. This may seem a stupid question, however I will ask, is a short-wave band radio and batteries allowed so that the inmate may listen to the B.B.C. etc? Is there a limit of books or indeed any other articles that I may present? Are mosquito nets permitted? Antiseptics such as “Dettol” and eucaliptus oil? Hard plastic knife, fork and spoon, large plastic bowl or bucket for clothes washing? Is it better to provide bars of clothes washing soap such as “Sards” or bags of washing powder? Sowing needles and cotton? I am looking at this situation as if I were in the position of a prisoner in such conditions and what I would wish to have available. Sunglasses, hat and sandals? Is it wiser to to provide large pump-action type containers of shampoo/body wash or are the “sachet” type more practical? I am under the impression that cell lights are kept on during the night, would “sleeping blinds” such as issued on long air flights be of use? Drawing pecils and sketch book? Cigarette lighters? First-aid kit? Toilet-paper, “wet tissues”, slippers such as provided in Hotels, clothes-pegs?

    Will the articles indeed reach the inmate or are cases of pilfering well known to occure?

    Please excuse me for asking so many questions, I have read many reports of prison vists but none that I have found fully adress these concerns, any advice that you could supply, or suggestions for other articles would be most appreciated.

    Thank-you’

    Regards,

    Brendan.

    • Richard Barrow
      December 16, 2011 at 12:30 pm

      It will vary a lot from prison to prison, but most prisons no longer allow for you to send anything by parcel. Only letters are allowed to be sent. If you want to buy them food or other essentials like shampoo, soap or even clothes, you can do so at the prison shop. These are then given to the prisoner. The reason given is that illegal items like drugs and cellphones were often smuggled into the prison in this way.

    • Sakura
      August 27, 2012 at 6:49 pm

      To enlighten other good samaritans wishing to assist a foreign national inmate in a Thai prison:

      Foreign Embassy vice-consular staff that do scheduled visits to check the welfare of their nationals in Thai prisons are an excellent means to assist transfer of almost any goods large or small to to your sponsored inmate. In some cases you can arrange to send cash to the Embassy on the prisoners behalf. A consular will then arrange local purchase of the items on your list and will also deduct a small fee for the service.

      On the next scheduled prison visit the vice-consular will liaise with the Guard Supervisors to transfer the goods to your named “farang” prisoner.

      Alternatively, if you are familiar with Thai culture, it is oh so easy to do a “special arrangement” with any Guard Supervisor (of senior rank most important!) to bring into the prison anything your heart desires to your named prisoner. To make this happen you must officially make a charitable cash donation to a good (Buddhist) cause which the Guard Supervisor will be pleased to arrange on your behalf.

      [May I remind all readers of this blog that Thai prison officials are all of exemplary honest character and will deal with you severely according to Thai law if you attempt to solicit any form of bribery].

      Everything and more mentioned on Brendan’s posted list above can be got to your friend in the prison. I speak out of experience and am not kidding.

      It’s always nice to have affluent friends when you are languishing in a Thai jail!