A prisoner in Bangkok

by Barbara Lewis
prisoner in bangkok-behind the bars

I visit a expatriate prisoner in the Lard Yao Women’s Prison here in Thailand. I won’t give her name for reasons of privacy and we will simply call her Miss C. She has no one here in Thailand to visit her except for another foreigner like myself who volunteers to do so. Her family, of which she has little left, live in the Philippines. She was arrested on drug
trafficking and sentenced to life imprisonment.

prisoner in bangkok-rest area

Her lot in life is not an easy one from wrong choices she has made. She admits she committed the crime under circumstances that left her perhaps with the inability to make the correct choices at the time.

She and her mother were very close. Her mother became terminally ill and she spent all her time with her caring for her in someway or another.

She was not close with any other members of her family according to her. When her mother died the grief and loss took over her life and she was in need of money, for what she did not say. It was at this time, in this state of mind that she was recruited to traffic drugs. She believed it was a quick way to make a large amount of money.


She has been in prison now, I believe, for about seven years. At different times during her sentence different types of amnesty have been given out and her sentence has now been reduced to 35 years. She currently waits in hopes of yet another gift of amnesty and perhaps the opportunity to get out permanently and go home. My understanding is that this is not something that is likely to happen, rarely does it occur, but at least she might get another reduction in her sentence. As I visit and speak with her I come to know a little about her life in prison. Since the beginning of her sentence she has worked. It sounds like all of the prisoners work in one capacity or another. Many of them are given education to massage so they will have skills once they are released.

prisoner in bangkok-washing area

In prison they do things like sew beads or sequins onto garments – this was her first job and it paid very little, was long hours and since she is suffering from cataracts in one of her eyes I am sure not a job that was easy to do well at. The prisoner’s pay and points they receive is based on how fast they work. Beadwork takes time so it is not easy to do it fast. Awhile ago she got a new job that is sewing piecework which pays more, she can do faster and she gets more
points for. Also sometimes to complete an order they need them to work overtime and so they then get to take a shower after other prisoners which means they don’t have to stick to the 10 count rule. That is correct. Each prisoner during their normal showering time has to the count of 10 to complete their shower. Needless to say she feels it is a real luxury not to have a count for showering.


The women prisoners are separated according to their sentences and new prisoners are not allowed to converse with prisoners that have been in for a while. They do this so that contraband cannot be passed between prisoners. All the women who have sentences greater than 30+ years are housed together and then those that have sentences of between 20-30 years, etc. I was told that almost all the women are in prison for drug and prostitution charges.

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