Freelance PR, Writer & Blogger Mel Larcombe has been doing something a little bit different to others who live in Koh Phangan, she has been raising awareness and gathering support for foreign prisoners in the Samui Jail. In her blog Mia Escobud Koh Phangan Tales she posts about her prison visit back in April and tells the world ‘Expect to be frustrated & confused, but it is not as scary as you think’.
Her informative blog post has lots of information about the prison that holds between 400-600 inmates, a far cry from Surat Thani’s over-crowded jail where 4000 prisoners means there are 100+ to a cell. In Samui it is only 30. It is not completely certain how many of those are falang but there are at least ten in the foreigner cell that holds 28 non Thai nationals such as prisoners from Cambodia and Laos. It is known that one of the inmates is German, on is Austrian, one Russian and one is from the UK.
In her blog post Mel says that although life in jail in Samui is relatively easy compared to Surat Thani the conditions are still dire and in the end it is about mental strength and finding your place in the system. She says newcomers go through waves of being freaked out by their newly captive situation but long termers all have a calm air to them that says “I’ve seen it all, and I accept my fate”.
While helping to support inmates locked up in jail a long way from their homes overseas is not everybody’s idea of fun Mel says that her only concern is basic human needs and lists her priorities as 1. Buy water, 2. Buy fruit and 3 buy food.
According to her blog prisoners have a shortage of clean drinking water in jail, but also points out that there are “no rights or wrongs here, it is an Asian jail and that is just the way it is.” She also points out that prisoners have no fruit to provide them with vitamins and food supplies are limited.
Interestingly she goes on to say that out of the 30 falang in the jail half of them receive no visits and no money and survive on the meager prison food, chicken neck soup, no meat and no veg, just broth.
If you are in Samui and you have a spare hour and a few hundred baht, you can help these guys, she says, and really make a difference to their daily survival needs. She goes on to say that you don’t need to worry about what to say to a prisoner if you decide to make a visit, it is their ten minutes to communicate with the outside world, whatever they want to talk about. She advises visitors to exchange stories with inmates, ask them how you can help and perhaps send a message home to their Mum, friends and relatives.
So how do you visit a prisoner in the Koh Samui Jail? Mel has put together a step by step guide on her blog.
Samui Prison visiting times are on Monday, Wednesday & Friday. Morning visits are 9am-12noon, and afternoon visits from 1pm to 3pm. Mornings tend to be busier than afternoons, and Mondays and Fridays are busier than Wednesdays.
You will need your passport and the inmate’s name. If you have their surname and prison number, that’s great, but it is possible to visit with a first name only. Wear respectable clothes, as you would do to any government office.
At the rear of the main waiting room area is a desk manned by two ‘Blue Shirts’. They themselves are prisoners who will be released soon; they are civil, but not friendly. They have a job to do, and they take it seriously.
1) YOUR name, age, passport no, address and telephone.
2) INMATE’S name and your relationship to them.
3) Any other VISITORS? Their name, passport and relationship.
Wait for your colour to be called and go to the prison counter on the right. (When other visitors start to line up at the counter, look to see what colour they have in their hand). Line up and hand in money (right window) and food (left).
You can hand in 3kgs. This includes one book and food bought from the stalls on the ring road. No fruit allowed here (buy at the outer prison counter) but rice, thai food, bread rolls, cheese and ham are all ok. You can even deposit a Macdonalds!
The prison guard behind this counter on the right is gruff: show your respect, no loud voices, smiles and wais go a long way! Write the prisoners name in blue marker on outside of bag. Inside your plastic bag should be a list of items deposited.
Now lock your belongings in the lockers behind the check-in desk. Ask the Blue Shirts for a key, they will keep your passport. Line up by the gate and wait for the prisoners to file in. When everyone is there, the Blue Shirts will call your name.
Head down the corridor, and follow your prisoner to a visiting booth. There is a glass screen dividing you. Pick up the phone and say hello! You have about 15mins to exchange stories and give an inmate a visit to smile about. Good luck!
Koh Samui Prison is on the ring road between Lamai and Na Thon.
Coming from Lamai, look for the road sign a few kms after Hua Thanon. From Na Thon, a few kms after Wat Kunaram, you will see the imposing court buildings rising on the left. The prison turn off is just around the corner…
Follow the prison sign and turn off the main ring road, then continue 1.5km down a winding country lane. The Remand Court & Prison are on the left. Go past the court buildings and drive straight through the guard box. You will see Samui District Prison (photo above) right in front of you.
To find out more about the prisoners and to figure out who to visit you can join the Samui Prisoners Support facebook page, it is a closed group to protect the prisoner’s integrity but if you are interested in helping all you have to do is request to join. You can find the page by clicking here.
To read blog posts about the prison by Mel just click hereStay updated with Samui Times by following us on Facebook.
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