Scott's Life in Bangkwang Prison - Thailand

Sa Kaeo Provincial Prison

19th March 2005 - 4th March 2006

After my arrest I was held at the police station at Aranyaprathet, on the Thai/Cambodian boarder, for 14 days before being moved to Sa Kaeo Provincial Prison.  This was to be my first taste of a Thai prison and I was not sure of what to expect, I had read books etc. about life inside a Thai prison and now I was to see for myself first hand.

Sa Kaeo held aproximately 700 inmates, made up of Thai's and Cambodian's - and me!

I immediately learnt that if you had any money it would make a difference to the quality of your life.  In a Thai prison anyone arrested on a drugs charge has to be kept in chains, as I have said before these things weigh about 15kg and are extremely uncomfortable.  I discovered that if I paid 2,000 bhat I did not have to have them fitted, except for court appearences.  After this initial shock I was moved to my cell and my face must have been a picture!  The cells held between 30 - 40 men and again money is needed for a sleeping space on the floor, so I parted with another 2,000 bhat.  The alternative for those without the means to pay was a small space in the corner where they where having to literally sleep on top of each other meaning that lice and skin disorders were spread even faster in this area.  I was finally able to sleep after my 14 days spent at the police station and considered my 2,000 bhat to be well spent under the circumstances!

I soon realised that I had a lot to get used to.  One thing being using in a hole in the floor with no toilet paper, you have to use water and your hands to clean yourself - something I still have to get my head around, even now in Bangkwang it is the same.  When you enter a Thai prison you are supplied with nothing at all, not even a plate or spoon to eat with or a mug to drink from.  My next task was to find some blankets and food.  Although I have spent a lot of time in Thailand I have never really eaten Thai food as I found it to be too hot but I was able to source MaMa (a type of Thai Pot Noodle) which I was to live on until May when my brother Lee came out for his first visit and was able to stock me up on supplies to keep me going for a while!

One thing which will always haunt me and which I was never able to get used to was the treatment of some of the young Cambodian inmates.  I was soon to helplessly witness the Beast violating the young lads in the cell.  Some of the younger ones got a place in the beds of the older Thai's, mainly for sex or blow jobs.  This really sickened me.  The younger boys would become slaves washing clothes, fetching and carrying for the "boss" and in return were fed and watered and left alone by everyone else - meaning they would not be raped.  The Cambodian inmates have nothing and no means of support.  They cross the boarder into Thailand looking for work etc. and do not have a postal address to let their families know where they are or what has happened to them.  Some of these lads will serve 25 years with their families not having a clue of their whereabouts.  Some left home to find work without telling their families what they were planning.  They have no moral or financial support at all and have to do whatever it takes to be able to eat and survive.  The Cambodian and Thai Governments do not have any prisoner treaties of any kind so they are totally alone.

Of the 3 prisons I have served time in here, Sa Kaeo prison was the only one where I was to witness severe beatings by the guards on inmates.  Back home in British jails if anyone needs to be disciplined they are sent to the punishment block, in a Thai jail they are faced with a guard brandishing a baton.  I only witnessed it 3 times and it was always in front of the whole prison as an example to us.  Each time the inmate received a good beating which took days to recover from.  Two of these "punishments" were carried out on imates who had been caught for raping another inmate and the third was for an inmate caught taking drugs.  I think that I was fortunate to only witness 3 in my one year here!

After about 3 months Uria was able to move to Sa Kaeo.  She was able to visit 5 days a week for between 30 - 60 minutes at a time and was also able to bring food into the prison for me.  This certainly made a difference to my life, I was finally able to supplement my "pot noodle" diet and also speak English again!  She was also desperately trying to explain to anyone who would listen of how I came to be arrested in an attempt to get me released.

One of the few luxuries at the prison was the full sized football pitch which we were allowed to play on everyday.  At one time we held a type of mini World Cup tournament amongst ourselves.  I was in a team made up of Cambodian's.  You were only allowed to play if you owned a pair of football shoes - lo and behold these suddenly appeared for sale!  The best game was when my team played the guards.  We lost 2-0 but had the whole prison watching.  I even got a yellow card for a tackle on one of the guards!

I would also pass my time during the day playing Dong, a kind of bowls in the sand.  We would play for 50 bhat chips which could be used as currency amongst ourselves.  Some of the inmates offer services such as washing clothes, cooking your food etc. to earn a living, the bhat chips are a kind of currency system between us.

I left Sa Kaeo a little wiser and a little more compassionate towards mankind.  Being the only "farang" I also picked up the Thai language pretty fast - it had been a one year crash course!

All in all I was treated OK there and three days after receiving my 30 year sentence I was off to Rayong Prison.

I have condensed my one year stay in Sa Kaeo into a few short paragraphs - one day I will be able to talk about it in a lot more detail.

Copyright Scott Hurford 2007 - All Rights Reserved