Monday, 26 April 2010

Should a tourist visit Bang Kwang

Bang Kwang Central Prison, Bangkok is alternatively known as the Bangkok Hilton. There is a long standing debate raging on whether this is a tourist attraction in itself and whether it’s right or wrong for tourists/travellers to pay a visit to somebody they don’t know.

Some would say the prisoner’s deserve a visit, some kind of contact with the outside world. Others say “let them rot”, they committed a crime and deserve to be punished. Should a prison, in any country, be considered some kind of attraction or be off limits to those without good reason to visit an inmate? I shan’t attempt to answer that question here, but can share my experience.

I have visited the prison, in a more official capacity and can pass on my experience of dealing with prison officials, red tape etc. If anyone wants full details on the process, leave me a comment on this post and I’ll reply in full. Essentially though you can just turn up (Monday – Friday 0930 – 1130 and 1330 to 1430) and you will be permitted a meeting with whomever you chose (it helps if you know the inmates name beforehand). Bring some ID with you. These visits are conducted across a fenced off divide and involve a lot of shouting to get yourself heard.

Visits to prisoners in solitary confinement or hospital wing are Friday only (and need to be arranged in advance if in solitary).

If you wish to actually go “inside” the prison and have contact with an inmate you need to arrange well in advance through the appropriate embassy. Bear in mind that these types of visits are severely limited and usually only available once or twice per year per prisoner. Unless you are a close relative of an inmate don’t apply for one of these visits because they won’t be allowed any more.

As with anything, get there early to allow officials plenty of time to process you, bearing in mind there is usually a large crowd of locals visiting their friends and family. Treat officials with respect, no smart remarks about the Thai judicial system, they will see you sharply removed! You are permitted to make a donation to the inmate or bring a small gift for them, check the list of prohibited items beforehand.

To get there take a river express boat to Nonthaburi pier, walk straight upon exiting the terminal and take the first left.

That’s the “how to”. Whether you should visit or not is another matter…!

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