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 LOCKED UP ABROAD: Thailand

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PostSubject: LOCKED UP ABROAD: Thailand   Sun Dec 12, 2010 2:06 pm

Tim Schrader left his life in Australia to work as an English teacher in Bangkok. While he loved teaching, he was struggling financially and agreed to smuggle between 4 and 8 kilos of heroin for $10,000. Caught by Thai customs officers with more than a hundred times the amount of heroin needed to secure a death sentence, he knew he was finished. But his life changed again when, more than five years after his arrest, Tim received a royal pardon on medical grounds and was free to fly home.





Bangkok Prison
By Dick Atkins

On my last trip to the notorious Bang Khwang prison in Bangkok, I was forced to cut short my visit. The stench from the open sewers and the food being served – fish head soup (with stones, insects and dirty rice) became overpowering and I could not handle it. But this is where Americans, other Westerners, and Thais, actually any male defendant who is sentenced to 30 years or more imprisonment, serves his time. It is an over-crowded (8,000 people) unsanitary hell-hole. The prisoners, however, cannot walk out like I did. A cell the size of an average living room will house 72 people who are forced to sleep on their sides, pushed up against one another. There is no room to move and even breathing often becomes labored in this sultry, miserable environment. I prepared a report for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the women bleeding all over one another, cramped in such tight quarters in Bangkok’s Lard Yao prison, and the fact that despite an epidemic of HIV/AIDS, the women were given gynecological exams by a person using the same rubber glove for 20 women. The women’s prison is filled with “mules,” fragile women who were conned by sophisticated male drug traffickers. When these women were arrested at the Bangkok airport, these “friends” escaped and left them alone and abandoned to rot in a Thai prison. Over the years, I have helped many of these unfortunate women. Billy Hayes often wrote to some of these desperate, depressed women in order to try to lift their spirits, so they could perhaps cope a little better with the overbearing heat and humidity, the hopelessness, the noise and the food, which if not supplemented by family or the U.S. Embassy, would probably not sustain their life.
At Bangk Khwang, where the men are housed, everyone starts out having to endure rusty heavy leg irons 24/7. These shackles are also always worn while going back and forth to court, no matter how long a prisoner has been there. I have seen some of these medieval looking devices which weighed at least 20 pounds, and I have observed the sores and wounds they often cause, as they rub away and cut into the prisoners skin.
In the Thai court system, if you are caught with drugs for sale, you are given the death penalty, unless you plead guilty. Execution of two people at Bangk Khwang prison in 2009 was by lethal injection, the execution method which replaced shooting, which previously replaced beheading. Heroin is the popular drug which is so easy to obtain since Thailand (with Laos and Burma) is part of the notorious major opium producing “Golden Triangle.” And even if you plead guilty, and even if you are an unwitting “mule,” the typical sentence is 40-50 years imprisonment. Prisoners who get sick can easily die. The medical care is certainly not nearly anywhere up to acceptable Western standards. I visited the “hospital” at Bang Khwang, where sheets were not changed when one prisoner died from an AIDS infection and another prisoner was promptly placed on the same bed on the same sheets. Circumstances are so dreadful and pitiful, that prison life in Bangkok has become the subject of many books and films. Unlike other systems, such as Japan and many other countries, the prison authorities in Thailand welcome visits by friends, family, and even by strangers. Many local youth hostels have instructions for visits to prisoners, so backpackers and other travelers, young and old, can see the list of names of prisoners who welcome visitors and then make a “good deed” visit to Bang Khwang.
These terrible prison conditions are also found in other developing countries in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America. But many Americans and other Westerners come to Thailand for an exotic holiday and for the hospitality of the welcoming Thai people, so we tend to have more U.S. prisoners in Thailand than in many other countries.
If you are arrested there, try to get a good lawyer who speaks English and a U.S. lawyer who has experience with the Thai system. If possible, retain a legal team which can help you avoid a death sentence and assist you in transferring back to the U.S. to complete your sentence as soon as possible. Transfers to the U.S. and Canada and other countries take from 4 to 8 years after an arrest depending on the sentence. Physical and emotional deterioration is virtually assured during the intervening excruciating Thai prison life. Possible transfers to complete the sentence in the U.S. or Canada are the primary reasons for some hope. Even those defendants with major drug convictions and other very serious crimes are eligible for transfer, unless the prisoner is sentenced to death. There is only one crime which is ineligible for transfer. And one of my clients was facing that most serious heinous crime – disrespect of the King and the Royal Family. My client had ripped up a Thai 50 bhat bill (worth $1.50) which had the King’s likeness on it. So if you travel there, remember to show respect to the Royal Family, temples, and Governmental and holy places. Avoid drugs and disrespecting the King and you will probably have the trip of a lifetime.

Read more: http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/series/locked-up-abroad/4731/Overview#tab-blog1#ixzz17sYGAeWV






Last edited by Udon Thani on Sun Dec 12, 2010 3:23 pm; edited 2 times in total
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