Don't go to Bang Kwang prison with any illusions…
'Brokedown Palace' is a movie, and although there may be the occasional exception, the foreign inmates in Bang Kwang have broken Thai law. Given that, Bang Kwang's foreign prisoners are a long way from home and often short of a few of the necessities in life. A visit from someone with a bit of time on their hands can therefore be something the foreign prisoners in Bang Kwang genuinely cherish - and if you are up to it, it's a worthwhile thing to do.
What follows is the definitive guide to how to become a prison visitor.
Provided by "Princess" from the UK, apparently an old hand at visits, the information given should be read carefully before even considering going up to Bang Kwang - if you don't you could make things worse for the people you are trying to help.
From Banglampoo Pier (Khao San) take the big whistling boat going upstream (to the right). It costs 6 Baht to Nonthaburi and takes 40 minutes. Nonthaburi is the last stop and you will recognize it by the white clock tower by the pier and the AMPM convenience store. Jump off the boat and walk straight on - ignore the touts! Take the 1st left and walk about 250 meters. You will see Bang Kwang prison on the right. You will need to go to the registration area on the left…
Guys must wear long trousers. Dress respectfully, whatever your sex. It really pisses the guards off girls wearing tiny shorts and vest-tops. Please dress properly because there are rumors the prisoners' visits will stop because of backpackers. Make sure you know exactly who you will call out as well - it annoys the guards when people ask for names they don't know. If you want names you can call the relevant embassies: UK Embassy - 02 305 8333 - ask for Maureen, Kate or Anita. They will not give prisoners' names over the phone though so you will have to go down to the embassy in person to meet them. American Embassy and others may give names over the telephone - I'm not really sure.
If you bring food from outside put it in a large clear bag. You can buy bags at the registration area cafe for 2 Baht. Write the name of the prisoner you are visiting on the bag. After you have visited the prisoner, you have to hand the food in at the counter (where 100 people or so hang around!). You hand in the original form and your passport. Wait for your passport to come back (usually takes 10 minutes) and off you go.
If you want to bring mags, books or papers hand, them into the Foreign Affairs office on the right as you go into the prison area. Leave the prisoner's name and building number on the cover and they'll get them… Don't bring magazines with too many naked pictures in them though - they won't get through. Other info: Please be aware that the prisoners sometimes have family or friends visiting. Look in the registration book to see if someone has already called out the prisoner you are visiting. It's very frustrating for prisoners when they have people they know over and someone randomly chooses to visit them! Beware that in August and December this may occur more often because that's when contact visits take place and families come over… Be very careful at these times. Very few women get visitors and have to rely on missionaries.
To write to a prisoner:
Address an envelope as follows -
Name of prisoner
Bang Kwang Prison
If you are not really up to this, don't go… time wasters won't help anyone. Be sensitive to the prisoners' situation - if you say you will do something for them, such as send an email for them or something, then please do it - imagine their frustration if you don't. It's also handy to take a pen and paper in. Just chat normally. If they want to tell you their story, they will. But they've probably told their story 1,000 times so they may want to talk about other stuff!
Footnote from KSR.com
For more information about this you can take a look at the Internet and find a number of sites. It's not our intention to link to any of these sites because some of them are critical and make what we regard as slanderous remarks about Thailand. We can't support those sorts of sites, but visit them if you want to. However, be aware of what you are reading - there are far fewer victims around than you might think! Most people know what they are getting into...
Here's one site we can link to http://www.correct.go.th/brief.htm
In our 'Banged up' section giving information about visiting prisoners in Bangkok, we wrote: "Some countries offer support to nationals who find themselves in prison abroad, others do not. The United Kingdom, for instance, offers British prisoners on Thai soil no support whatsoever." We received the email below from Angela Tokalau at the British Embassy who gave us a more informed picture:
I happened on your site by accident and read, with much disappointment, the comment made in your seciton on visiting prisoners in Bang Kwang.
I am the Second Secretary (Vice Consul) at the British Embassy and feel that you need to have some more information about what we actually do for our prisoners while they are on Thai soil.
Prisoners in Bangkok receive a visit from an Embassy official every month, more often if there is a problem (health etc). For those in prison in the provinces, we visit every three months. We provide vitamins and prescription medicine free of charge and also pay for medical, dental and optical treatment for each prisoner, regardless of their circumstances.
We do shopping on their behalf, run bank accounts for them at the Embassy, arrange their transfers to British prisons if they are eligible, advise on preparing Royal Pardon Petitions and keep in regular contact with their families. For some of our priosners, we are the only visitors they get.
Can you honestly call this no support?!
Also, please note the Embassy telephone number was changed over a year ago to 02 305 8333.
I would therefore be grateful if you would arrange for the comments about the Embassy's lack of support to be removed from your website.
Angela Tokalau (Mrs)
Second Secretary (Vice Consul)
British Embassy Bangkok
Our sincere apologies for this misinformation.