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The entrance to Phuket Provincial Prison

A Trip Inside Phuket Prison: Photo Special

Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Phuketwan Inside Story, plus Photo Album

ON THE inside, Phuket Provincial Jail is perhaps not as daunting as it seems from the outside.

Phuketwan went inside on a day-trip today, to see how Public Health cares for the prisoners.

Through the two sets of barred doors, a bit like going through a decompression chamber, lies a central courtyard. There are trees, and with one of Phuket City's green hilltops is in the background, it looks very neat.

Today female prisoners are queuing up for a health check inside a mobile clinic. They each carry a white slip of paper and, in groups of 20 or so, line up to go in one by one.

Inside, they are able to talk to medical authorities about any problems they have. The women are all dressed in brown prison uniforms and seem quite cheerful in the sunshine.

Many of them, though, are barefoot.

The men follow, again in small groups. They take off their shirts before joining the queue. Some of them are katoeys and cover their chests with their shirts. Others do not bother.

One or two of the prisoners are shackled, with protective bandages around their ankles.

Unlike the women, all the men have footwear, mostly flip-flops, although a few pairs are ornately decorated katoey footwear.

Dr Wiwat Sitamanod, Deputy Chief of the Phuket Provincial Health Office, is here today to oversee the health process.

He says the whole prison population will be checked, over about 10 hours.

One of the concerns is to stop the spread of TB. If problems are detected in an examination of patients, they will be taken for x-ray and further treatment.

However, most of the health issues in the jail are minor, with skin infections and heat rash fairly common, he said.

A nurse works at the jail fulltime and the Vachira Hospital, together with Phuket's other hospitals, provides treatment as required.

Prison authorities have allowed the media in today because they are concerned about reports lately that the jail is a Thai ''hellhole.''

The jail was built for 700 people and now holds close to 1200. About 20 expats are among the prisoners.

Officials at the jail are keen to point out that there is no alternative facility for now, so prisoners have to be accommodated as best they can.

A couple of westerners, being held in the section in front of the hill, gesture towards Phuketwan. It is unclear what they want.

Behind the mobile medical clinic is the woodworking section, and the quality products produced at the prison are often put on sale at local festivals at Saphan Hin public park.

While we are looking on, an expat prisoner is called over the loudspeaker, and escorted to a seat in a spot surrounded by riot shields and helmets.

Nivacha Tehrem, a nurse from Phuket International Hospital, provides the blond, well-built prisoner with a jab of Twinrix, designed to provide protection against Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B, as well as possibly ward off TB.

The young man says he is a Swede, serving a sentence of two years and six months (but since reduced by half) for theft.
He seems quite cheerful, and says he is well into his sentence.

The inoculation, the nurse says, comes courtesy of the Swedish Consulate.

We leave the prison with the medical team, happy to step out into the outside world again.

For a glimpse of life on the island, check the Photo Album above. We were not permitted to take shots of prisoners' faces.

Phuket prisoners are in constant need of clothes. So are the distressed children of prisoners, who are cared for in a children's home near the jail. Anyone with clothes or toys to donate is welcome to drop them at the jail.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


I have much Adult clothing left over from my charity shop.
Would it be of use?? How to deliver etc Thanks to Phuketwan for this insight, i like many have been horrified by the tales about this place


Editor: All clothing donations are welcome at the jail entrance. We saw the best of the jail. Inmates probably find the crowding and primitive cells less than sunny.

Posted by Tony Pope on April 5, 2009 15:18


I was in Phuket Provincial for three weeks. My bed space was 55x60cm next to a man unwashed in two years. At least two prisoners have unsightly sores that people avoid them for in spite of intimidatingly administered assembly rules. The guards empathise. One I was told 'cuts onions'. At least half of my 126 man cell wear bandanas all night because the open toilets are in the cell. Masturbation and unallowed smoking take place there, generally accepted. The katoeys use a bucket in theirs that they empty daily. In the open sewage moats there is, granted seldom, human faeces.
The birds and the flies in abundance gorge your generally nutritionless food before you get to it. I had an embarassing but scary sore within days of being there. The 'doctor', speculatively unqualified, gawped at it with his lazing around mates in the waiting room as opposed to the surgery. He winced and walked away from me. A lackey of his told me 45 minutes later that it was doubtful that he'd tend to me.Doubtless the media saw prisoners in uniforms as they wore on the 'Trouble in Thailand' docco. The ones we had to wear when visitors came or we went to court or any time the outside world could see us. I was even sent back to shave on my first visit, that was officially 10 minutes but routinely cut short with impunity. Myself and another farang complained that farang always got a humiliating deal, even to a mound of facaes in uniform shorts to wear on visits. We were ridiculed by the top officer.
When dignitaries visited, we were locked, squashed up indoors while a select few in uniform walked around pretending all was well and earned brownie points.
The Swede mentioned is not happy. But then . as an officer told me, any of our vetted post will be stopped if anything negative about the prison is written to the outside On appeal he was given another two years totalling more time than his original sentence. Oh propaganda.

Editor:Thanks for your insights. A couple of hours in the sunny quadrangle is certainly vastly different to being inside. Overcrowding will continue to become more of a problem. A new, larger facility does not appear to be a priority. We will renew our request for a complete tour.

Posted by Simon on September 16, 2009 02:55


writing letter to friend need what word? chinese or english?

Posted by esther on March 25, 2011 16:51

Editor Comment:

Are you in jail, esther? If so, the words in English are "Get me out of here, please.''


why u call me get out of here? i just want to know how can i conneting letter! i'm a malaysian, if that word must use english, i will be chinese change to english! thanks....because that prisoner is THAI.

Posted by esther on March 25, 2011 17:16

Editor Comment:

Officials in jail can probably deliver a letter in english or chinese, esther, whichever you prefer. There are some prisoners who are good translators. Sorry, i misunderstood.


Hi I have been told that my ex partner is in this prison, if I write or send money to him will he get it?

Posted by Anonymous on March 6, 2012 04:11

Editor Comment:

Best deal with your embassy.


Hi I want to write a letter to an inmate, how do I address this letter so that he gets it? Do I use name and then the address of the prison?

Posted by Anonymous on January 27, 2013 16:06

Editor Comment:

sure. There is only one Phuket Prison.


I was there twenty years ago for Baclays bank blunder, still suffering.

Posted by Anonymous on August 24, 2014 20:00


hello. I am a foreign national wishing to visit my Thai friend who I believe has been taken to Phuket prison. Will I be allowed to visit him and if so when is the best time for me to go? I speak only English and no thai. I am a very concerned friend and wish to help my Thai friend In any way I can. Please let me know. Thank you

Posted by Anonymous on April 11, 2015 22:17

Editor Comment:

Visits are allowed but they are not long and a screen separates inmates from callers. Email and we will provide what help we can.

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