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Inside Phuket Prison today, where children share cells with adults

A Dawn Raid on Phuket Prison, and Inside We Find Children: Photo Special

Tuesday, April 30, 2013
PHUKET: Tumbling rain obscures the dawn as we stumble inside Phuket Prison. It's a surprise raid, in search of drugs, mobile telephones and other contraband.

We find one or two surprises. Coming across young children is one, playing with their mothers in a large, overcrowded cell.

There are seven kids in Phuket Prison, and more than 2000 inmates in a facility built to hold 750. We had been told how crowded a dormitory built to hold 300 prisoners can get.

''Get up in the middle of the night to go for a piss,'' our informant said. ''And the space probably will be filled when you get back.''

Having seen the dormitories now, we can swear that it would be true. There is row after row of men dressed only in shorts, shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip.

Near one huge dormitory - which still carries the sign ''Muslim Prayer Room,'' and that may have been what it was once - is the VIP dormitory.

This is where British prisoner Lee Aldhouse spends his nights, in a room for just 30 prisoners, cushy by comparison with the crowded dormitories.

Mr Aldhouse, undergoing trial for murder, won some special conditions when he was extradited from Britain in December.

Dormitory by dormitory, the prisoners are cleared out and carefully searched. Then their belongings are searched.

Phuket's Governor, Maitree Intusut, is leading this raid, saying to prisoners: ''Sorry to wake you up so early'' and being given a guided tour by Phuket Prison Commander Rapin Nichanon with other VIPs in tow, mostly wearing medical masks.

The smell is just as you'd expect. We didn't see any deodorant.

Because it's raining, the prisoners assemble in the mess hall instead of outdoors in the quadrangle.

In the women's section, the search of individuals is carried out by female officers with a slightly more delicate touch, but with gloves on.

Notes and love letters are found among the bedding and perused.

Through the bars and flywire screening, as one women's dormitory is cleared and searched, we see two children playing in the next dormitory.

It's more than a surprise. It's a bit of a shock. Still, the children play and appear to be healthy.

The governor stops and drops low to quiz a Russian woman, doing a year inside for theft.

For us, the door to the world outside opens after 90 minutes. The rain has stopped and we step through the gate, with relief.

Commander Rapin playfully locks the Governor inside. But like us, he'd rather not stay today, thank you.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Ed, you left out the most important part of the story. Why are there children, toddlers no less, living in the prison? Is this common in Thailand? Is it part of a program that lets children live with their captive parent as we see in some other countries?

Posted by NomadJoe on April 30, 2013 10:40


Yes, it's common in Thailand and should not come as a shock to anybody that have been living here for a few years. The fact is that it's a right for the mother to bring her child with her when she goes to prison. Granted, in many cases she might not find a relative to care for her child, but in general these children are there because the mother wants to be close to her child.In larger cities there are schools provided as well, don't know if this is the case in Phuket though.
So, the choice is for the mother to take care of her child on the inside or let her kid end up in some sort of childrens home run by some charity or local government. Some chose to raise their own kids on the inside.

Posted by christian on April 30, 2013 15:31


I understand that its common practice to allow kids to stay with their incarcerated parent/s as often there are no other family members able to care for them. The kids are taken out of prison and cared for during the day time by ChildWatch, a local charity.

Posted by chill on April 30, 2013 15:41


How very very 3rd world,what was the term used in previous articles in PW ah yes slave ship conditions. I'll bet these conditions weren't shown to the British foreign secretary May when she had Aldhouse sent back here for trial 30 to a cell and that's classed as VIP conditions and poor little kids are kept in these conditions with their mothers how very 18th century of you phuket. I'd like to bet you now when these pictures and this article appears on the screen of the relevant EU department in Brussels no more EU citizens will be being sent to this country for any crime no matter how dreadful.Thanks for enlightening us as to what goes on behind the smoke and mirrors and veneer of decency that is phuket.

Posted by Scunner on April 30, 2013 19:09


It is not 3rd world to keep a mother united with her child. Many countries allow for this. Examples are in the USA where there are prisons that have nurseries for incarcerated women that give birth. There are facilities in Germany and Israel that allow children to remain with mothers up to a set age, It is far more important to a child to be with the mother at an early age then to be separated. An infant or small child is free of the stigma one associates with a prison.

Posted by ryan on April 30, 2013 20:31

Editor Comment:

Indeed. We were shocked to see the children in the prison but there's plenty of logic to it. What's amazing is how overcrowded the facility is, yet how efficiently it functions.


I know money is hard to get for Government projects but with 3 times the prisoners that the place was built for I am surprised that they have never built additional buildings on the property.
They must have the space or they could have purchased more land adjacent to it.

Posted by John on April 30, 2013 21:04


don't commit jailable offences you wont go there , their designed as places you don't want to attend or return to, yes the overcrowding is not that acceptable,
what do some you want to read all rooms fully serviced that maids come in at 10am to make the beds.

Posted by slickmelb on May 1, 2013 04:17


I'm sorry, but these prisoners are in here for invading or breaching others human rights to whatever, and when this is done and you caught, I believe, rightly or wrongly that you too should lose any human rights too. Our prisons are overcrowded and they got Tv, voting rights, 3 meals a day, clothing and Laundry so we find as soon as they get released they commit another crime just to get caught and get back in.

Posted by Gregg Cornell on May 1, 2013 14:39


@ christian. RE: "Yes, it's common in Thailand and should not come as a shock to anybody that have been living here for a few years" Perhaps if you have a lot of friends that have gone to prison. This is not common knowledge.

Posted by NomadJoe on May 3, 2013 09:59

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