Guest Author - Vance R. Rowe
Bang Kwang Prison was built in 1927 and finished in 1931. It is one of the harshest, brutal prisons in the world. Located outside of Bangkok Thailand, Bang Kwang Central prison was not built to hold ordinary prisoners. This prison holds the worst criminal offenders. Prisoners who are waiting for sentences from the Appeals court as well as the Supreme Court. Prisoners that are sentenced to 25 years to life and prisoners who are sentenced to be executed are held here as well.
Throughout its extensive history, Bang Kwang Central prisons famous or infamous around Thailand and all of Asia as one of the harshest prisons in the world, with conditions so rough and brutal, many prisoners have literally gone out of their minds or lost their lives. For the first three months of incarceration, prisoners are required to be shackled with leg irons for twenty-four hours a day. This alone has caused their morality to diminish as well as their capacity to move around. Up until 2013, the prisoners who were on death row had the shackles permanently welded on their legs. Execution is administered by either firing squad or lethal injection.
One of the most intriguing facets of prison life here is that Bang Kwang is operated on what is called the chit system. This is an internal class system. In this system, prisoners receive food from the prison cantina based on their standings. Everyone receives one bowl of rice and a vegetable to eat but everything else has to be purchased. If one was wealthy, well, he can pretty much get what he wants plus he is able to extort the men of the poor class to do work for more food. At one point, Asian prisoners only received red rice while foreign prisoners received white rice, however this was changed so that every prisoner received white rice. Foreign prisoners also ate better at the cantina due to money given to them by outside charities.
Bang Kwang Central prison has a couple of nicknames. One is Bangkok Hilton because the plot of an Australian television show that starred Nicole Kidman and Denholm Elliot and aired in the late 1980’s was very loosely based on the prison. The other nickname is Big Tiger. A former prisoner of Bang Kwang, Warren Fellows, wrote a book about his stay at the prison called Damage Done and in this book he wrote that the prison was nicknamed Big Tiger by the Thai people because it “prowled and ate”.