Pattaya Remand Prison, 57 Nongplalai, Banglamung, 20150 Chonburi, Thailand, Phone +66 (0)38 240803
Thailand is one of the few countries in Asia that was never occupied or patronized by a Western power. Therefore, Thailand has a legal system that is confusing to foreigners and in which the principle prevails that a defendant shall be regarded as guilty until he has proved his innocence. This and the fact that in Thailand police officers - because of their often small salary - are allowed to earn a little bit extra money, is an ideal base for anyone who wants to make another person problems.
To me it would have been almost impossible to write this down here at any time soon, because I was put into Pattaya Remand Prison on Monday, 29/04/2013. This happened immediately after the third court negotiation in a law suit that was initiated by a Thai neighbour lady against me in December 2012. Even though it was me who had nearly smashed his skull on 2nd Sept. 2012 with a square wooden club on the open road of our village, having broken my hand when I intercepted her second and third stroke, not having touched or spoken to her at all. The lady waited 3 months, and as in my police indication case against her nothing happened - for what reason ever - she turned things the opposite way and started a law case against me because of intrusion into her property, insulting her and pushing her and her husband, so both of them fell down and got some bruises. Her niece, who in fact was not there at that time, saw the event personally.
I did nothing wrong, but if husband and niece appear as witnesses three months later, then documents, photos and even my police indication of the next day (3.9.2012) with fruitless mediation at the police station are of no help. The two police officers who were called by a good friend of mine, disappeared after a long talk with the attacking lady and without writing down any protocol. Before that, they prohibited me and my friends to inspect the crime scene in detail, and to another neighbour, who saw everything, they suggested amnesia. After all, one of the policemen brought back the folding bike that I led with me when being attacked and then let fall on the road leaving it behind.
It took four months until I could identify one of the two policemen. He knew nothing and was not on duty on 2/9/12. Shortly afterwards, he told his supervisor, who inquired again, that the version of the plaintiff is probably true, because he saw blood (mine?) on the terrace inside. So I was the penetrater and she had just hit me with a small dog stick to defend herself. Not to mention any more a criticizing letter from me to her in her function as village mantenance manager which annoyed her and demanded to teach me a lesson. But anyway the whole occurrence was a trifle, and therefore no evidence was collected and no report of him and his colleague was made.
In Thailand it is common that the accused has to bail himself out when a law case starts against him, otherwise he will be jailed in a remand prison. For me, a deposit of 90,000 Baht was fixed (about 2,300 Euros) which was due at the latest on 29/4/2013. I was told from two different persons that a bank guarantee letter in this amount in favor of Pattaya Law Court can also do, and I presented it in court on that day.
But this was not so, and cash would have been better. I asked to be allowed to drive to the bank to get the money, but I was forbidden. Instead, my lawyer called in a lady draped with gold, who operates court-internally as a bailout mediator. I was asked how much I would like to pay her for her services. I offered her 1,000 Baht, which is the legal minimum income for 3 working days of Thai citizen. Obviously, however, this was too little and the lady turned around and disappeared. Shortly thereafter at 13 oclock a policeman appeared, handcuffed me and led me through a back door of the courtroom to the cellar of the courthouse. There I was thrown into a collection cage where already about 50 detainees were waiting for their trials or were back from them.
My cell phone was taken from me immediately, so I was isolated in the cage. Assuming that they would also call me later, I remained patient and waited sitting on the stone floor. At about 17 oclock - the guards already drank whiskey - I asked a guard when it would be my turn, and he told me "soon".
Arrived at the Pattaya Remand Prison Complex Nongplalai (Department of Corrections) it went through several locks. They took away everything I had with me, and I was checked in with some newcomers - photos, fingerprints, nude body search, forms, appeal, speech, eating soup. Since I did not want to let cut my jeans on knee-length, I got prison suits. Shortly after it I was guided into a 100 square meter room in which I had to spend the night with about 100 other inmates on the stone floor. Pushed together like sardines, lying sideways head - feet - head - feet, skin to skin, sweating, only with pants, shirt as a pillow, it seemed like a miracle that everything was so peaceful. If someone had to turn on the other side, because his hip was aching, several inmates next to him did the same. Had someone to go to toilet sneaking over all the other people lying on the floor his gap was filled immediately. Coming back, the inmates next to him moved back again and returned to him his valuable floor space. A big fan on the lattice windows and several ceiling fans made the heat bearable.
The next morning my name was proclaimed on loudspeaker and I got a visit from my friend, with whom I had contact behind glass in a barred room by telephone. He promised to help me and then left the room. Such a visit requires about 2 hours of waiting time for the visitor.
Only on day 3 my friend and his Thai wife (foreigners are not well accepted) succeeded to bail me out on court, but now had to show up 100,000 Baht in cash. I knew nothing about all of this, because there was only one visit of my friend and I was completely cut off from the outside world. On Wednesday night, about 18 oclock, as we were already back in prison dormitory looking the evening TV soap, the prison commander came and spoke to me through the bars. He said that my step-daughter had called and that my case had a top priority for him. Then against 20 oclock I was called and told that I was free.
At about 22 oclock I stood outside, barefoot, gymnastics pants and shirt on that someone gave to me. My stuff, clothes and documents that I took with me to law-court have already been picked up by the wife of my friend, so I had nothing left. My friend was luckily standing outside with his car waiting for a long time.
If my friend was not so good and would have withdrawn 100,000 Baht from his bank account, I would not have come out and would have - as I was told - spent six months there, although so far no verdict has yet been spoken. A cash withdrawal from my bank account by my friend was impossible, since the bank guarantee already blocked 90,000 baht and could only be resolved by me personally. Luckily the judge who had to be consulted again on Wednesday afternoon was gracious enough to accept the now 100,000 Baht for me from the wife of my friend. And then it went unexpectedly quickly, probably with the help of the prison commander.
Nongplalai is said to be the toughest prison in Thailand, and I might have given me there a survival chance of only one month. Skin infections, but also influenza and TB viruses catch us degenerated foreigners easily. The rest will be done by thousands of flies outside and other vermin. Currently, my nose is running like a waterfall, and I have a slight fever. Luckily I am no longer there.
Nevertheless, I am still touched by the helpfulness of many inmates, without which I could never have got any orientation there. I was told that by routine the General Consul in Pattaya Rudolf Hofer appears there too. He donates Germans and Austrians comforting words and also small gifts, which he pays from his own pocket. So there is a small chance not quite to disappear into oblivion. The prison staff and some inmate supporters are correct and friendly and are respected by the prisoners. The prison commander is almost loved.
Now I have at least five new friends who I will never forget and hopefully see them again. When I left the room, where the inmates just were preparing to sleep, most of them were standing up and waved. My story (You boxing a Thai lady?) was probably discussed inside and I had a lot of compassion on my side. And such a relatively sporty 68aged dodderer like I am seemed to impress as well.
So overall - and for 3 days - this was an experience that I do not want to miss. Fortunately, they did not shave my head, like they did to almost everyone else. Good also that I have lost almost 4kg, because I only ate a little rice soup with mama-soup-powder, given to me in the prisons cantina by some inmates. Drinking water in the prison room was available from a tub with a scoop tin cup for all - next the three squat toilets surrounded by low walls and with water scooping boxes next to them - although many violently gasped and coughed and you could not wash yourself in the room. And even the toilet boxes in the night were converted by some desperate inmates into sleeping cells. The next morning I saw that one of the new arrivals with extreme coughing was gently accompanied away. I was told that he would be transferred into a special wing for prisoners suspected of infectious diseases.
During the day, you could refill at certain times water from the tap into empty coke bottles that were lying everywhere. It was also impressive how the inmates in the morning on small fires outside cooked water for coffee or soup in old tin cans. As fuel they had only compressed cola or plastic bottles which they set on fire. They probably knew nothing about dioxin. It was a pity that I had no camera with me, also because of the many fantastic tattoos that could be admired there. And also because of the few beautiful girls who showed up there. Unfortunately with a limb too much on them.
On the third day I got a credit card, with which I could order and pay daily necessities and drinks in the prison shop. The starting cash was exactly the content of my confiscated wallet. So you could buy for 200 baht a day per form. The delivery was done the next day. Visitors from outside could also buy for slightly cheaper prices an unlimited amount of goods for the detainees there. And as well they could refill their cards balance. But inmates without visitors were hopelessly lost. A small chance of earning money offers them a job as a paper bag gluer or bic lighter assembler. The plan is also to build up a prison sewing manufactory. Mail can also be sent or given, but takes a few days passing through internal controls.
Attention was paid to hygiene. If you could succeeded in the morning to grab a bucket at the washing area you could wash yourself quickly. Otherwise, these were used for washing clothes and towels, which had to be done by the inmates themselves. In the afternoon before returning to the prison room some rows of shower pipes were installed. Approximately 15 people in a row, four rows behind each other could have a shower then. The water ran for three minutes, then you had two minutes to soap you down, and then another three minutes of water running. Who was too slow, had bad luck and had to leave soaped in, as the next inmates were following on. At 18 oclock we went into the large bedrooms. Two hours TV soap on two ceiling TVs, and then light half off and sleeping. The newcomers had to sleep on bare stone floor. Inmates who were already there for a longer time had blankets that were several times sewn together and could be rolled out. And many also had hammocks, made of self-knotted blankets. And some had both, as for example David from Munich. As he saw that I had to spend the second night again sitting near the toilet wall, he called me over and gave me his hammock. You have to get used to it, however it is a relief when especially hip and butt were aching from sitting or lying on stone floor all the time.
Inmates who have to leave the prison to see the judge on law court get foot shackles which weight is 4 kg. If unruly or someone takes drugs, he gets 8kg forged shackles to run around with them three months by a six months imprisonment extension. The chains do rust quickly, and so many are busy trying to keep them polished by sitting down and hitting them on the sand. For better walking (and for the use of the plop toilet) then the chains ore bound high between the legs , fixed with a rope to the front of the pants or holding them up with the hand. I was told that Nongplalai once was designed for 700 prisoners and is constantly expanding. Meanwhile, there are probably 2000 (about a quarter in the womens wing), of which I saw only about 30 running around with chains inside. A special bending machine serves for the opening of the bottom foot rings. Arnold Schwarzenegger would have no chance. Prisoners coming up with a sentence of more than 10 years will be jailed in Chonburi prison and lifetime or death sentenced in the Bangkok-Hilton prison.
My trial will be continued. On 27/5/13 now starts the prosecutors lawsuit against the lady accusing me, because another commissioner was in charge since February 2013 and took up the matter again. If there is no agreement with compensation in sight, it continues with the fantasy story on 17.6., and it can go nasty for me. Then again Nongplalai jail, bail and re-appeal at the District Court of Chonburi. But I have some friends in Nongplalai now and already a toothbrush in custody at Eddie and his little self-supporting group. So there may be a better chance of survival if it will take a longer time.
The trial ended today with the result that now the two cases are put together and then will be negotiated again on the already set date 17/06/2013.
Today there was a fairly lengthy trial, and it was like haggling at the carpet dealers. Fortunately, my friend Nopradol Khamlae from Chiangmai was on his way back from Rayong and came to see me in Pattaya. He accompanied me to the Pattaya Law Court and gave me assistance in translating and negotiating. Finally we agreed to a compensation payment of 40,000 Baht = 1,000 Euros, which had to be paid by the applicant immediately in cash to the defendant (me). Thus, both cases were settled and no additional payments could be asked for from either side. Strangely, however, that it was the plaintiff swearing under oath "stone & bone", who had to pay to the defendant a under Thai perspective huge compensation amount. And then, finally, the court-prison-commander appeared, in whose presence the applicant had to swear again that for at least two more years to come she would refrain from hitting clubs on someones elses head. Amazing Thailand! Igo Kirchlechner, Pattaya, 17 June 2013
Photo right side: Commander Noon
The Thai Governments Large-Scale Spending on Foreign Investment and Tourism Promotion will be useless because no one will want to come to a country where they feel unsafe and where they cant be confident that the police will help them when they get into trouble.
Kultida Samabuddhi, Deputy News Editor, Bangkok Post, 21/12/2012