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EXCLUSIVE: Phuket Prison’s female inmates talk about their lost lives

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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EXCLUSIVE: Phuket Prison’s female inmates talk about their lost lives | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Behind the walls of Phuket Provincial Prison are more than 2,000 inmates. About 350 of them are women; most of them doing time for drug dealing.

The Gazette takes you behind the bars of Phuket’s cramped prison for exclusive insights into the lives and circumstances of two women, ‘Wan’ and ‘Bee’, locked up for drug-related crimes in a facility built more than 100 years ago to house only 800 inmates.

Are social changes and the pressures of modern society to blame? Did these women have a choice or was drug dealing the only way out of poverty?

Wan and Bee’s days begin at 6am. They either take part in job training programs or work in the bakery, in which case they get up at 5am. The prison bakery runs every day, making food for the inmates and to sell at a stall in the visitors waiting area.

The female inmates follow a strict daily routine. After rising, they exercise for an hour, then take a shower before breakfast. All the food served at the prison is vegetarian.

Married mother of two, Wan, 28, started selling drugs as a quick cash earner to support her children and husband, a mechanic earning a small wage in a small back-street garage.

“I was a housewife looking after our two children; a 10 year old and a newborn. We were all surviving on my husband’s small wage. I wanted more money but I didn’t have a job. Selling drugs was the only thing I could think about doing that would allow me to make money and be at home with my children. Some friends introduced me to the drug world,” said Wan.

Four months later Wan was arrested with more than a kilogram of crystal methamphetamine (ya ice).
“I knew right from the start that one day I would be caught.”

At the time of the interview, Wan was still waiting to be sentenced and had no idea how long that sentence might be, yet she was already resigned to her fate of a life behind bars.

“I lost my future. The only future I have now is here, serving time for selling drugs. I can’t be with my children or my husband. He is out there working hard, alone, to take care of the kids. I regret what I have done. If I could turn back the clock, I would definitely not do it again,” said Wan.

As well as missing her husband and kids, Wan said that seeing her parents happy was what she wanted to see more than anything else.

“I never did anything to make them [my parents] happy. I never bought them anything, never took them anywhere nice. I was not a good daughter. I did not take good care of them and now I am stuck here. I want to pay them back but I am not sure if I will ever have the chance.”

“If I do get out, I will stay away from drugs.”

Like many who get mixed up in the drugs, Wan comes from a broken home. However, she does not blame her circumstances for ending up in jail. She accepts that she is now paying the price for the
decisions she alone made in the past.

“My parents separated years ago. I was left to fend for myself from a young age, but it’s not their fault that I decided to start selling drugs,” said Wan.

“It’s not like the movies, where drug dealers are forced into selling drugs. It’s up to the individual what they choose to do about their circumstances.”

“I want to warn anyone thinking about getting into drugs to think twice. It seems like an easy way to make a lot of money very quickly, but please stop and think first. You are about to trade your whole future for some quick cash. You may get away with it for a while but it will not last. You will eventually get caught,” said Wan.

‘Bee’ is 21 years old and is serving a lengthy sentence for drug dealing. It was just 117 grams of crystal meth that changed her entire life. By the time she gets out she will be almost 50 years old.

“I lived with my father but I did not want to bother him by asking for money. I found my own ways to earn a living. I grew up in Phuket and finished secondary school (pratom 6). I have tattoos, which makes it difficult to find a job. Most employers turn their noses up at people like me, with a low education,” said a calm and collected Bee, who seemed to have already accepted her future life behind bars.

“I wanted to study more but I never had the chance. We did not have enough money and my father didn’t do much to support me.”

“I was selling drugs for about a year before I was caught and sentenced to 25 years in jail,” said Bee.

Phuket Provincial Prison only houses inmates serving sentences of under 15 years. Bee however, remains incarcerated in Phuket while waiting for the verdict of another trial on drug-related charges, before being transferred to Nakorn Sri Thammarat Central Prison.

“Money was the only reason I got into the drug business. Just like everyone else, I had to earn a living. Without a good education and nobody to support me, my only option was to sell drugs,” said Bee.

“My father passed away not long after I was imprisoned. I didn’t see him again. I had a hard time dealing with that.

Just like Wan, Bee looks forward to one day seeing her family again.

“The first thing I want to do when I get out is see my younger sister and my aunt. They are both in Phuket. I hope they are still around then.”

Even though Wan and Bee are in prison for similar crimes and are now paying with their lives for the bad decisions they made, each has a starkly different outlook to the other. Wan vows never to go near drugs again. However, Bee is much less certain about being able to steer clear of the drug scene in the future.

“I do not want to get involved in drug dealing after I am released, but I can’t tell what my situation will be in the future,” she said.

Options for women in need

The Phuket Shelter for Children and Families in Koh Sireh is one local organization empowering struggling women. Director, Sirumporn Komonsanao, says there are many options for women who are willing to work.

“The shelter is one of a network of shelters in every district in the province supported by the Department of Social Development and Welfare. Each community has someone in charge of helping those women in the area looking for work,” said Ms Sirumporn.

“If you need help, just call us on 1300. We are available 24/7. Or you can contact any government office in your community, where job training is provided free of charge. Women in the community can make suggestions about the things they want to learn and we will look for experts to train them, and provide all equipment,” said Ms Sirumporn.

Ms Sirumporn admitted that despite their efforts, there are still some women in desperate need of help who still fall through the cracks.

They would be people unwilling to share their problems with others or simply don’t know that there are people out there ready and willing to help.

“It is our job to help women get back on their feet so they can care for themselves and their family but, ultimately, it is their job to work at it rather than taking short cuts by selling drugs,”

A woman’s choice

“A lot of women who live in Phuket are from other provinces and I believe many end up involved in the drug trade because of the high cost of living here,” said Ms Sirumporn.

“Many are single mothers who are desperate to find a way to provide for their children. Naturally, any mother will do whatever she can to support her own children. Selling drugs can appear to be a quick and easy way to make ends meet but that is a choice only they can make,” she said.

“There are many other ways for women to make a decent living. It is a matter of choice; deciding whether or not to risk the consequences of earning money illegally.”

Patong Police officer Lt Col Sutthichai Thianpho has little sympathy for drug dealers.

“Think of all the hard-working people out there, working long hours for a low wage. They don’t turn to drugs. They just get on with life, no matter how hard it is,” he said.

“Of course, finding a quick and easy way to earn money can be very attractive, but not everyone chooses to deal drugs. Those who take short cuts by dealing drugs will eventually end up in jail.”

Parts of Phuket prison have recently been painted, making it as charming as a prison can be.

The place is clean and the inmates live by daily routines not dissimilar to the lives of those beyond the prison walls.

However, prison warden, Suparat Tantipongwiwat, has firm views on the purpose of the prison.

“We do our best to take care of the prisoners. However, this is still a prison.
It is meant to curtail certain freedoms. This is a place for people who break the law,” she said.

“Nobody ever wants to get locked up, but the way to stay out is easy. Don’t break the law.”

— Chutharat Plerin



Read more headlines, reports & breaking news in Phuket. Or catch up on your Thailand news.

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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Patong

How to be charged 2,600 baht for having a flat battery in the Jungceylon car park

Tim Newton

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How to be charged 2,600 baht for having a flat battery in the Jungceylon car park | The Thaiger

A rant…

Started off with trying to exit the Jungceylon carpark in Patong, Phuket, late on a Sunday night. After watching a film in their tawdry cinemas, I was assured by ticket sales staff that I should present my ticket stub with the car park card for free exit.

Getting to the exit gate and I was told I had to go to an ‘elevator’ to get my ticket stamped. As there were already three other cars behind me (it was around 9.30pm at this stage), it caused quite a kerfuffle and tempers (mine included) were starting to fray.

The poor woman at the exit booth (whose key work skill must be ‘patience’), kept yelling ‘elevator, elevator’, doing little to inform us what we were actually meant to do. (I wanted to leave a car park, not go on an elevator?!?).

Anyway, minor ‘misunderstanding’ sorted out soon enough, and returned to my car to exit the car park (about 10 minutes later).

A Russian man had had his own adventures with the Jungceylon car park the night before. Firstly he was stuck there on the Saturday night with a flat battery in his white sedan. As it was very late, and wanting to get home, he left the car in the space and took a taxi.

As I was sorting out my own car park ‘misunderstanding’, other car park staff assisted him with his flat battery by jump starting his car. The assisting staff were given a gratuity, I don’t know how much.

But on reaching the exit gate he was told he had to pay 1,800 baht. (Presumably for around 24 hours of car parking).

With his fist full of receipts, around 3,300 baht worth, he was also told ‘elevator, elevator’. He got out of his car, there were another three cars backed up behind him at this stage, and went to find the ‘elevator’. Upon returning he was now told he had to pay 2,600 baht! How the amount had magically inflated to 2,600 baht remains a mystery but the cark park ‘gatekeeper’ was not to be messed with.

By this stage about eight young Thai gentlemen, with name tags, keys hanging from their belts and hand-held radios, had turned up to ‘assist’ in addressing my complaints and ensuring that the Russian man was not able to leave the car park before paying the 2,600 baht. The only common language among the Russians and the Thais in the situation was English and it was not going well.

Google Translate was getting a fine workout but wasn’t really helping.

During the extended ‘negotiations’ the cars behind were detoured around and allowed free exit.

Given the man’s travails in having a flat battery, having to come back to the steamy car park late on a Sunday night, the cars piling up behind him and the loss of face for just about everyone at this stage, the ‘smart’, good PR thing to do would have been to thank him for spending 3,300 baht at their expensive shopping centre, lifted the boom gate and waved him on his way.

But no, these young Thai car park staff wanted their pound of flesh and there was no way in the world that barrier was going to be lifted until the man had paid every baht he ‘owed’. Three police turned up to try and sort things out but all departed in exasperation, knowing the car park staff were being pig-headed but unable to intervene because they would have caused their fellow Thais a loss of face.

At this stage the Thai car park staff were already starting to utter things under their breath and spitting out ‘farang’ in their deliberations.

During the entire two hour drama many other cars had the same issue of not understanding that they needed to report to the bottom of one of the ‘elevators’ to have their receipts stamped. There didn’t appear to be any signage or understanding of the procedure (until, of course, you go through this rather drawn out lesson in Jungceylon car park procedure). There was a sign outside the elusive ‘elevator’ but given there are seven other exits from the car park you’re unlikely to see them.

Apart from Jungceylon losing the patronage of at least two, or more, customers over their overly-officious and unprofessional behaviour, the system will surely remain unfixed waiting for the next stupid ‘farang’ to stroll innocently into the underground farrago.

The only bright light in the dingy car park fiasco was the pleasant young gentlemen sitting at the ‘elevator’ with his stamps and gracious smile, wearing full eye make up and blissfully unaware of the surly car park Nazis. He profusely apologised but I am fairly sure he was none-the-wiser about my lengthy explanation of the situation.

Give the man a pay rise!

For Jungceylon, I would urge better signage, in a few languages (it IS a tourist town), to inform us about their rather opaque car park procedures.

I did ask for a statement to include in this story from some of the ‘people with hand radios’ or a comment from the Manager. But there was none forthcoming. Our forum remains wide open for a response from management.

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Patong

Phuket’s lifeguards say goodbye to a champion of local beach safety

The Thaiger

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Phuket’s lifeguards say goodbye to a champion of local beach safety | The Thaiger

PHOTOS: Phuket Lifeguard Service

A commemoration ceremony has been held for Prathaiyuth Chuayuan, a local Phuketian who helped drive Phuket’s first beach lifeguard services. He passed away on Friday morning after a heart attack.

He first experienced chest pains whilst delivering his daughter to school in Phuket Town on Friday morning, drove himself immediately to the Vachira Hospital nearby but succumbed to cardiac arrest around 9am.

He was 57 years old.

He worked with Australian lifesavers to help train local lifeguards and improve the skills of the Phuket’s beach enthusiasts, and finally sought international accreditation for the growing body of competent Phuket lifeguards.

The Phuket Lifeguards Service, founded and run by Prathaiyuth and his wife Witanya, saved innumerable lives each year whilst battling Provincial Hall and local government for increased funding in annual contract negotiations.

Daren Jenner, a FOT (Friend of The Thaiger) and local safety officer for the International Surf Lifesaving Association, sent a message to us expressing his deepest condolences to Prathaiyuth’s wife, family and friends.

“I had many good conversations with him over the years. He was a good-hearted man who did his best in difficult and changing circumstances. A very big loss for Phuket and the lifesaving community here. ISLA sends our deepest respect for his long commitment to ocean safety in SE Asia.”

Phuket's lifeguards say goodbye to a champion of local beach safety | News by The Thaiger Phuket's lifeguards say goodbye to a champion of local beach safety | News by The Thaiger Phuket's lifeguards say goodbye to a champion of local beach safety | News by The Thaiger

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Environment

Phuket villager braves the surf to rescue tangled turtle

The Thaiger

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Phuket villager braves the surf to rescue tangled turtle | The Thaiger

A local villager in Phuket’s north has risked his own life to retrieve a young sea turtle caught up in fishermen’s netting. The turtle was spotted, caught up in the branches of a fallen tree along the shores of Mai Khao beach. The monsoon was kicking up big waves and it’s unlikely the locals knew how to swim, especially in the surf conditions.

The local villager makes a few attempts to retrieve the turtle, eventually separating the turtle and netting from the tree branches with a meat cleaver.

After clearing the netting from around the turtle’s flippers and neck, it was taken by an officer from the local Phuket Department of Marine Resources for evaluation and treatment before it will be released back to the sea.

VIDEO: ห้องวีอาร์ ทะเลใต้ // @มานพ สิงห์ 8802

🔴 #ภูเก็ต #เต่าติดอวน วันนี้ 17 สิงหาคม 2562 ชาวบ้านได้ช่วยเหลือเต่าติดอวนพันตามคอลำตัว คลื่นได้ซัดเจ้าเต่าน้อย เข้าหาฝั่งหน้าหาดไม้ขาว ชาวบ้านได้แก้เชือกออกตามคลิป และได้เเจ้งเจ้าหน้าที่มารับไปอนุบาลเป็นที่เรียบร้อย #NewshawkPhuket Cr.ห้องวีอาร์ ทะเลใต้ // @มานพ สิงห์ 8802

Posted by เหยี่ยวข่าว ภูเก็ต Newshawk Phuket on Saturday, 17 August 2019

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