The Truth about Thai Prisons

Thai prisons are not palaces or hotels. You won’t see private toilet facilities or TV sets in the cells. Western jails are centrally heated with high quality medical facilities, gymnasiums, games rooms on site. Prisons in the Far East are not so comparable.

Rehabilitating prisoners is not, in practice, happening in Thailand

Although rehabilitation and not punishment is said to be the principal aim of the penal system, the long (by western standards) sentencing imposed makes one doubt that.

Several prisoners are placed in cells with mattresses or sleeping spaces very close together. Inmates have little privacy. The daily budget for food may not be high but it is basic and healthy. There are exercise yards but life is not meant to be socially active.

Prisoners are adept at getting round the rules

However, in some prisons, at least for juveniles, prisoners are allowed supervised free telephone access to parents and family via internet links such as Skype and Line. Mobile phones are technically banned and are regularly confiscated during spot checks. It seems difficult to control. Thailand is full of enigmas. There are rules and regulations but in Thailand enforcement is not always fully exercised. One need only look at how traffic violations are not taken seriously to realise that.

What you See is NOT what you always get in Thailand. WYSIWYG

Outward appearance rather than actual substance is a feature of many aspects of Thai life. Public areas in prisons, gardens and reception centers can be immaculate and welcoming. Not the same as one might see or experience inside. Thailand can hold surprises for observers. You may see a fine expensive-looking house with a flashy car in the driveway and then be taken aback to find mattresses and not beds in the rooms that visitors do not normally see.

Conditions in Vietnamese prisons are more brutal and cruel

It was only in 1970, after Life magazine ran a report on the Vietnamese prison in Phu Hail, that the Vietnamese closed down their “tiger cages” which housed some of their 20,000 prisoners, chained naked in rows, and beaten and dusted down with lime and water. A combination which is calculated to burn the skin. There is no evidence that Thai prisons were ever that barbaric.

It’s accepted that “money talks” and gets things done in Thailand

In all parts of Thai society, money can make the wheels turn a little more smoothly or quickly to get things done the way you want. That may apply to well-heeled prisoners as much as to anyone else. Ordinary inmates see nothing odd or wrong in different classes of Thai being treated differently. Class and hierarchy are not only found outside prison walls.

How to Comment on my posts and get them directly into your inbox if they are of interest. YOU choose whether to open or not.

I want my readers to engage with my posts. By thinking about the topic being discussed, you can add to the thread by writing a comment which extends everyone’s knowledge.

Despite what is claimed, Facebook is not a platform that can achieve that. You all know that it censors and deletes posts, it does not even send posts to every participant. It’s common knowledge that not all of your friends will get your posts. And we don’t know how the algorithms select the audience to which your posts are eventually sent.

I use Facebook for keeping in touch with friends, much as I would use an email service. I use their voice call facility. But for communicating on Thailand topics, it is useless.

I will continue to write on Substack and Medium and post links on social media, including Facebook but I will not in future post a piece directly on Facebook because, as I’ve explained, it never reaches the intended audience.

If you click on my Substack or Medium link, you will be able to read the whole post and comment on it — up to 5 times per month. If you email or message me with your email address, I can add you to my free subscriber list and you will then receive every post I write. It’s up to you of course whether you find the post of interest and whether you feel you can make a constructive reply.

I spend a great deal of time researching and writing the posts which you all say you like reading. My aim is to give value to my readers, providing you with what you want.

MattOwensRees writer on Thai culture and lifestyle

I am a published author on Thai events and how Thais actually live under feudalism. My books are available in eBook and print format. I also publish on Substack