Thursday, 13 October 2016

Morning Visit at the Thai Prison

8am at the prison...

Infront of a strategically placed sweat wagon, used to transport inmates in and out of this establishment, 2 guards stand to attention for the morning flag raising ceremony and National Anthem.  In the prison courtyard, the pariah dogs stroll around unaware, unperturbed by the officialdom taking place around them.

A trustee prisoner makes his rounds of the prison shrines, placing marigold flowers as offerings;  lighting incense and candles as he goes.  A Buddhist monk arrives to register for a visit himself.  The manicured gardens and waddling duck ornaments give a sense of peace to the waiting area.  The barbed wire on the compound walls before us is almost disguised from view.

Uniformed guards, male and female, arrive for work, entering through the imposing blue gates that only guards or prisoners will pass through.  The visitor room to the left is innocuous and unimposing by comparison, apart from the bars on the windows.  We wait for our 10 minute visit with an inmate, on a phone, through a glass screen.

10 minutes of escapism for those inside, if we play it right and keep a smile on our face, despite the dread circumstances...

The Thai mama in the waiting area next to me is open to interaction.  She wishes to guide new visitors through the process.  There is always a sense of compassion and humour, even, at the Thai prison.  For a visitor, at least.

A lottery vendor tries his luck on us.  Maybe we will get lucky on our inmate's behalf, if we buy a ticket from him today?  Fate, chance and circumstance...

More visitors arrive, it's a family affair:  care worn grandparents and parents;  schoolgirls in pigtails;  teenage boys in sniper T-shirts with deadly slogans, 'One shot, one kill'.  All races and religions sit patiently together:  Thais, Muslims, Burmese...  plus one token farang this morning, me.

More Thais bring me into conversation, laughing with toothless smiles and Buddhist acceptance at our predicament.

The sweat wagon backs up and disappears through the open blue gates - to reappear 10 mins later, full now with remand prisoners in brown uniforms.  The siren sounds as the prison vehicle leaves the compound and transports its wide-eyed human load to court.

And we watch and we wait, considering our lot.

Peaceful,
heart-warming, spine-chilling... a morning visit to the Thai prison.