FREEDOM FOR EACH PERSON REGARDLESS OF AGE, RACE, RELIGION OR POLITICS
THE REAL BANGKOK HILTON
Final Script Ė World-wide version
22nd July 2004
50í30Ē including credits (35í) and opening graphic (6í)
This World Theme Music
bangkwang maximum security prison
Letís put it this way, a lot of people in here will never see
free air again.
The Thai people call Bangkwang the ďBig TigerĒ. They
say it eats men alive.
I have no clue when I will die. They could inject me today or
In the west it has been known as the ďBangkok HiltonĒ.
There is twenty-four in a room which is really hard.
Especially when you need to go to the toilet because there
are people all over the floor.
The prison is notorious Ė itís been the subject of novels
and movies - but the Thai authorities have never
allowed the reality of life inside these walls to be filmed.
the real bangkok hilton
Bangkwang prison is at boiling point. In the last few
years the prisonís population has trebled Ė because of
a government crackdown on drug trafficking.
7,000 men are now packed into a prison built to hold
around half that number.
Ok weíre ready Ė get them up.
Row three Ė stand up!
There are serial killers and multiple rapists locked up
here. But most prisoners are in for drug dealing
offenses. In Thailand drug sentences are harsh --
minimum 25 years - to life - to the death penalty.
The prison guards have arranged extra heavy security
but theyíre nervous. They are unarmed and
Donít let them get close to the prisoners!
Donít let them get in the room!
The prisoners might lock them inside!
Wouldnít that be big newsÖ
A BBC crew taken hostage!
With so few guards roll call is taken twice a day to
make sure nooneís missing.
We use our batons to check how the bars sound.
If one bar has a different tone it means someoneís tried
to file through it.
3:30 is lock down. The prisoners spend 15 hours a day
in their cells.
You literally cannot lie flat on your back put your hands on
your stomach if you do that your elbows are on two other
beds. That is pretty damn close and that is 15 hours a day.
prisoner no. 290/42
In here - if one prisoner gets sick, so do all his
Iíd say the beds are about that big about 5 foot long and me
feet are always sticking over the bed. You are always
touching someone in the room. Itís really hard.
Prisoner no. 317/47
The lights stay on 24 hours a day. Thai officials have
said 63 percent have mental health problems and one
in ten is suicidal.
There is a lot of people who are losing their minds. I am
sleeping next to a guy now; he just walks around all day
talking to himself.Iím in the room next to him at night, and I
have seen a dog scratch less. Last night he was itching so
much there must have been three different places bleeding
from. And a week before he was bleeding again and he
actually got blood on my bed.
Many will die here and many more will be put to death.
Just after the new Thai government came to power,
these men had their executions in Bangkwang
broadcast live on Thai television as a warning to drug
In the street outside the prison thereís another warning.
This sign shows 560 inmates face execution for drug
Amporn Birtling is one of them. His shackles are
welded on permanently. He faces death by lethal
injection. The execution order could come at any time.
The Thai government says drug pushers have
destroyed the future of many of the countryís young
people and deserve to die.
All of my life I hated drugs more than anything. I never
thought that I would be arrested because of them. I told my
kids donít touch them. Donít get close to them. I hate them.
I admitted that I was guilty. Why has society punished me
so harshly? Why donít they give me another chance? I
never committed a crime before.
The tough sentences are popular.
The prisonís resident Buddhist monk Ė like the majority
of Thai people Ė has little sympathy for drug traffickers.
Drug dealing is a type of mass murder - it can destroy
whole families. If a child becomes addicted to drugs, he
drags down his whole family with him. The child starts to
steal everything, which ruins the familyís reputation in
society. A murderer typically kills only one person. Drug
dealers donít kill just one person - they ruin everyoneís
My children try to cheer me up. They say to me itís OK -
donít be sad father. If people canít see the goodness of
your heart, heaven can.
Thailand is fighting a drug problem far worse than
anything yet seen in the west. The country is a major
through-route for drugs.
Heroin and speed pills are manufactured in Burma. The
drugs are then trafficked through Thailand to Europe
and America, with much of the profit going to the Thai
But now Thailand has a major drug problem at home.
Metaamphetamine pills Ė called yabba Ė now as cheap
as a dollar a pill -- are flooding the local market. In
recent years Yabaa has found its way into schools,
child addicts in the streets have become a common
Itís called the ďcrazy drugĒ. The governmentís said it
is Thailandís number one national security issue.
I had a job watching yabaa supplies. My employers paid all
my daily expenses Ė and paid for my house as well. All I
had to do is keep an eye on the pills. When we had a client
my boss would call me and I would make the delivery.
Two years ago Thai television broadcast details of
cases of violence by people high on yabaa. This man
threatened to drop his own son off a building.
The Thai prime minister vowed to wipe out the
countryís entire drug problem within just sixty days.
Ten thousand people were arrested. More than 2000
alleged drug dealers were shot dead in the streets. The
authorities said it was gang on gang killings Ė Human
rights groups say it was the Thai police.
One day the police caught my partner and forced him to call
me to deliver some pills to an undercover officer. I was
arrested immediately. The police just decided to arrest any
suspect they could find - thatís why prisons are
overcrowded these days. They werenít looking for the real
criminals, otherwise they wouldnít have even bothered with
Caught in the crackdown were hundreds of foreigners.
20-year-old Michael Connell from Bury in Manchester
says he smuggled drugs to fund his second holiday in
So what were you arrested for, Michael?
Iím arrested for importing 3,400 ecstasy from England to
Thailand and got I caught at the airport.
When they found them I knew what were going to happen
to me. Because anywhere in the world if you get caught
importing drugs youíre going to prison. So as soon as they
found them I knew I were going to prison.
Connellís story is of the typical ďtourist turns convictĒ
variety. He was one of the hundreds of thousands of
young Britons who visit Thailand every year - many of
them young travelers easily tempted by the readily
available cheap booze, drugs and sex.
I just came for a holiday for the first time and enjoyed it so
much when I was leaving I were heart broken to go. The
culture, the people are all dead friendly. And mainly the
weather Ė in England sunshine donít happen very often.
Overwhelmed by what seemed an idyllic lifestyle,
Connell, like many of these travelers, got a false sense
of security. He visited Khao San Road - the
backpackerís ghetto in the centre of Bangkok where
many plan their beach trips in Thailand. He went on to
the beach resorts and the famous full moon parties
where ecstasy is plentiful.
So I wanted to get back but it was expensive to come over,
I had to find the way to make money.
Connell didnít want to say where he got the money to
buy the drugs. In November 2003, he arrived at
Bangkok's international airport for his second vacation
in the land of smiles. Customs officials found the
ecstasy tablets in his travel bag after they were
detected by an X-ray scan.
I went to collect me bag and for some reason it was already
off the rail going around so I just picked it up, walked
through customs, then they said stop can I search your bag.
So they just put my bag through the X-ray machine, opened
the bag, put their hand in, just pulled them out.
When I got arrested there was a big sign in the customs
office, from which that scared me a lot.
I just sat there looking at it and just praying that I donít get
the death penalty.
The pills, with a street value of 50,000 pounds, were
wrapped in plastic and hidden in two facecream jars.
Michael escaped the death penalty by pleading guilty,
but was sentenced to 99 years in prison.
ďFamily, I love you all. Donít worry about me. Iím fine. Iím
more worried about yourselvesĒ.
Anything can happen to you in the time you been here. The
biggest fear is not knowing when I am getting out, that is
the biggest fear that Iíve got.
Connell has been put in building five, which is reserved
for young and dangerous prisoners.
Bunharn Cholsin - a prison director Ė leads the visit
into Connellís cellblock.
Director of Prisoner Welfare.
Twenty guards gather for extra security. But there is
tension in the air.
Donít be afraid. Warden Chaweng is a very good kickboxer.
Uh, open the door building five.
I am Narit Witsaket, Prison Officer 3. The situation is
These two doors canít be opened at the same time. First we
all have to get inside here.
Compound five contains about thousand prisoners but there
are only thirteen or fourteen guards on duty. So if the
prisoners wanted to try something, thereíd be nothing we
could do about it. If the prisoners wanted to knock the
guards out, we couldnít do anything.
Warden Bunharn is concerned about the safety of the
female Thai interpreter.
Donít worry. Just stay calm. Donít panic whatever you do.
The prisoners have never seen a woman come in here
Normally hundreds of prisoners mill about this open
space. But now they are herded against the walls.
Before this visit the guards had raided the block,
seizing any personal possessions regarded as against
the rules - like mobile phones and drugs. Theyíre not
The prison bosses have a system of prisoner guards Ė
called Ďtrustiesí. The prisoners call them blueshirts and
blueboys. They have the power to search - and to
discipline - the other prisoners.
Michael Connell [VO]
Itís difficult to be foreigner here, because in the building Iím
in Iím the only white guy in the building so I stand out a lot.
I do get looks off a lot of people but Iíve got to ignore them
all the time and carry on what Iím doing.
Are you all right? I werenít expecting ya.
So this is where you hang out day?
That is where I hang out, yah. One place where itís quiet.
As a new inmate Connell must wear leg shackles for
the first three months.
Well I really canít play football at the moment since I got the
chains around me legs. But Iíve got another month with
them on. They hopefully they should be off in a month, then
I can play football.
Life in Bangkwang largely depends on how much
money a prisoner has. Poor inmates work for the
guards or for other prisoners to survive.
A lot of people here havenít got any money. So you got to
basically help the ones who havenít got the money so he
does me washing and then I give him food and stuff like
Each inmate has a bank account in the prison. They
can buy food and toiletries from the prison shop using
a coupon system. Michael also gets food and vitamins
from the British embassy.
You buy your food everyday. So you just buy it. Sometimes
you can do cooking, plus the embassy comes every six
weeks they come and they bring me like, stuff like fresh
bacon, ham, cheese.
Itís not the embassy that gives us the money every month
itís the charity called Prisoners Abroad who gives us 2000
baht every month. Which is actually a really big help
because my family ainít got that much money to help me
The guards have had enough. Itís time to leave
Bunharnís tour continues with a visit to the maximum-
security building. He travels there in the prison
transport vehicle - a golf cart.
We use this golf cart sometimes to transport death row
inmates to the execution chamber.
The inmates call it ďthe JungleĒ.
Itís solitary confinement, Bangkwang style.
I have heard about solitary that you are in there every four
days and you get out one day. Thereís not a toilet in thereís
just a little bucket in the room. Just a little bucket no water
to shower with. One guy said that you are lucky if you can
lie down on your back flat. I plan not to go up there.
This is an example of a stubborn prisoner who lacks
discipline. Thatís why heís isolated from others. This is a
fair punishment - he stabbed another inmate at least 10
times and when the guard tried to stop the fight, he was
attacked as well and got 10 stitches. We forgive him Ė we
will try our best to rehabilitate him. Other people always
imagine that we are tough, but in reality we are not.
My case is attempted murder. Iím sentenced to death, but
A large percentage of the inmates in solitary are from
Nigeria Ė a country that has some the worldís most
organised drug courier gangs.
Why are you in solitary?
Nigerian Inmate 1
They tell me I foughtÖ I had a problem with another
How long have you been in solitary for?
Nigerian Inmate 1
Do you get out during the day?
Nigerian Inmate 1
Yeah - twice in a week. Just for one hour.
Nigerian drug couriers take delivery of heroin in
Bangkok and send it home to their capital of Lagos.
With Nigeriaís rampant corruption, getting the drugs
through Lagos international airport does not pose
much of a problem. In Nigeria, the drugs are repacked
into smaller parcels, often into condoms that couriers
swallow and take to Europe and America.
What are you convicted for?
Nigerian Inmate 1
Nigerian prisoners are problematic. They try to sell drugs,
though they donít take them. Iíve talked to them and
understand that their country is poor. They need money to
support their families.
Director of Prisoner Welfare
What are you in here for mate?
Nigerian Inmate 2
I had a problem with my building chief. He said I used
Many Africans donít have embassy support unlike
American and European prisoners. They have little or
no legal help.
How many years do you have to serve?
Nigerian Inmate 2
Iím now on a life sentence.
Whatís it like in here?
Nigerian Inmate 2
Well, We provide for ourselves We donít have enough food.
So we have to survive on our own.
In the past Nigerians outside have smuggled drugs and
mobile phones into the prison, often hidden within
food. In this way the Nigerian inmates could deal drugs
and earn money.
They try to hide drugs in all kind of places. We usually catch
them. Sometimes they hide it in cosmetics. They have their
tricks. In the food. Sometimes they swallow it and then
excrete it into the toilet. We donít have electronic devices to
detect that. When we catch them, they are punished, they
Do you miss your family?
Nigerian Inmate 2
I miss my children. I have five children.
Would you like to go home?
Nigerian Inmate 1
Does anyone come and visit you Gary?
Nigerian Inmate 2
Only missionaries. Once in a while. Once in a while.
Another western prisoner who agreed to be interviewed
was 47 year-old Andrew Hawke from London.
Death row. They got their chains welded on.
Thatís my home for the last five and a half years.
And home for how much longer?
Nobody in place can say with any degree of certainty when
they are leaving. Nobody at all.
Permission for filming is denied inside Hawkeís
compound Ė the last visit inside Connellís proved too
dangerous and disruptive.
But they do allow a camera to be given to a guard who
agrees to film Andrewís daily routine Ė but under the
supervision of a senior prison official.
Well, Iím going up to show you where I sleep.
What were you arrested for?
Stupidity. It was 800 odd grams apparently. Airport.
What led you to the decision to try to do this?
Desperation. Financial and personal. I was homeless at the
time Ė just been made that. The personal stuff I donít really
want to go into.
Most of the time, I end up asleep. 15 hours a day in this
room. Every day. Thatís a lot of hours.
Hawke made his decision to smuggle heroin after an
offer in a pub in Amsterdam.
I really didnít want to do it, everything screamed against me
not to do it. But I went ahead and did it anyway.
I was justÖ pouring out my sorrows and woes, and
basically talking with strangers like you donít talk to
anybody else. Letís just say I was suicidally depressed.
To be honest I was thinking about taking the late night ferry
and jumping off it. I was at the end of the rope, franklyÖ.
slowly getting drunk and somebody whispered over my
shoulder ĎI know a way you can make some money to get
you out of your financial problems.í What? He said Ďyou can
you can fly over and do a job for me over in Thailand.í Give
you some money be a tourist for a couple of weeks and fly
back. I said okay. That must have been about 3 or 4 in the
morning. By half past two the next afternoon hungover and
pretty drunk, got taken to the airport and put on a plane. I
was here. And once I was here I was pretty much
committed because I didnít have a return ticket or enough
money to buy one for that matter.
I was arrested right before I entered the aircraft. It was a
metal detector thingy youíve gotta to walk through. God
knows what triggered it off. I just remember my heart going
like a trip hammer and was waitingÖ I waited for at least a
half an hour before the customs guy showed up. And they
checked the stuff and one of the customs guy said that
maybe itís milk powder and I just looked at him and said
yeah I bloody well hope so. But it wasnít.
Arrived here April fools day. Very funny.
Hawke was sentenced to death, cut to 50 years when he
I deserve to be punished I certainly do. But the punishment
is so severe.
This is my friend Adrian. The reason heís lying down is that
heís too tall to stand up. So Adrian, what does it feel like to
be on TV again? Say hello to your friends at home Adrian.
Hello. Welcome to Bangkwang people.
Are you pleading guilty or not guilty?
You see yet another man in the system who is not guilty.
I pled guilty from the start my friend. I was caught red-
Hawke is ordered to show off the new gas cooking area
for the guardís camera
This is the area where all the cooking facilities are. Gas
bottles all behind. As you can see thereís only six rings. So
a lot of people use charcoal instead. But the the gas here is
provided. Just off shot are about 400 people showering
which you cannot be shown under the laws of obscenity in
Thailand so we will now move on. OK, enough.
This is my friend heís the librarian. He looks after all the
Most of these books were put here either by me or Adrian.
About Ned Kelly and his life and times short as they were.
Yeah, Iím just reading ďHow to live in ThailandĒ.
You found out how to live in Thailand my friend. Too late
you found out. OK thatís enough
I think that it is my anger at the British government thatís
halfway responsible for me holding on to my sanity. The
number of letters that I have written to various government
departments of the foreign office home office and the sheer
gall of the replies keeps me going.
Heroin smuggler Hawke is desperate to leave. He is
subject to the rules of British prisoner transfer
agreements. If he returns to the UK, he must serve half
the sentence he received abroad. Other countries are
far more lenient.
Even if I went back and did the half that the British
government insists that I do, Iíd be nearly 67. I was a Dane
or a German Iíd have 4 and a half years left.
These American prisoners they get transferred back home
after 8 years. Then they do 2-3 months in prison in America
and then get released. So a lot of people are really upset
Well the Americans go their own way, no one can stop the
Americans but we should at least get the same treatment
as the rest of the Europeans do and none of them do more
than 10 years so why the hell should we?
In the last few years Bangkwang prison has become
part of the tourist trail in Thailand. Notices in guest
houses encourage tourists to visit inmates. The
prisoners call them Ďbanana visitsí - because it makes
them feel like monkeys in a cage.
Prisoners on drugs offenses are allowed one visit a
week, while all other inmates, including murderers, get
The prisoners sit behind a wire mesh, and the visitors
at the other side of a second wire mesh, about ten feet
apart. For each pair it is like trying to conduct a
conversation across a busy road.
Two years ago we were just curious to visit somebody in a
prison and we met a boy from Malaysia and we felt so sorry
for him but we know heís innocent Ė heís really innocent but
he has life time. I think itís too bad.
My wife she stays in Penang.
So when you arrive at penang airportÖ
With her parents, she stays with her parents.
Yeah, she stays with her parents.
When theyíre guilty, ok, but not life, not life - thatís too long.
Donít you think?
Yeah I get visits from tourists sometimes who go to the
British embassy and want to visit a British prisoner.
Sometimes people come over from England who see me on
the news and all that. From Manchester.
Adrian gets a visit from a fellow Canadian who read
about him on the internet.
Welcome to the Bangkok Hilton!
Weíre lucky weíre Canadian. Canada has an exchange
treaty. Because we have life sentences we have to do 8
years in a Thai prison then we can transfer back to Canada.
I just wanted to see if thereís anything you need Iím going
to the store afterÖ
Well, besides my freedom - not that much!
A friend that I knew before just appeared out of the blue
one day. That one, I was taken aback. Sarah, you know
A lot of people go crazy you know. A lot of people inside
they are mad!
They make my day in fact. You know I come here Ė itís food
for thought. AndÖ they make my day.
Heís a nice guy, he just make a mistake and thatís all you
That makes me thinking about how we are living in paradise
of the west you know, compared to here. He told me he got
50 years. Could you imagine? He is 40 Ė a little bit over 40.
Heís going to be here for the rest of his life.
Iíve stayed here ten years.
I never fight my case.
One of the prisoners is from Afghanistan.
No Afghan embassy. Of course.
Yeah, because as you know everything is problem in
Afghanistan. And I contact other embassies from other
places, not reply back.
I see. So thereís nobody helping you on the outside?
Nobody help me. Nobody help me. Sometimes, Iím sorry,
when you go to the toilet at night, come back you donít
have a space to sleep. And food, is not enough at all. And
everything you should buy yourself!
Some guy came Iíd say about three weeks ago, he were
telling me that heís been around Thailand, Vietnam,
Cambodia, Lao, Burma. And when he were telling me I was
just thinking greatÖ Iím in prison.
Iím sleeping next to a guy who has not washed his bed now
for two months and Iíve told him to wash his bed and he
donít wash it and Iím sure Iím getting mites off his bed or
something like that. Iíve asked him to wash his bed but
heísÖ heís not all there. So heís just walked off and heís
still not washed his bed yet.
Avoid any open wounds of any kind. With the water here
you have to Ė thatís unfiltered river water that we have to
wash in. Try and not get sick. The worst thing that you can
do is get ill.
Seriously ill inmates end up in the prison hospital,
which is understaffed and understocked.
Tuberculosis and HIV are rife. But the patients remain
Many prisoners have developed the full-blown AIDS
It happened because they used the same needles when
they are shooting dope. And sexual Ö you know.
Hospitals in Thailand are partly supported by donations
Ė but not this one.
Most Thai people think these prisoners deserve their
suffering. So they donít donate to our hospital. But in
medical care, we have to treat all patients equally
regardless of religion or class.
Last year I was sick in the hospital for 23 days. I saw
people by the bed by my side dying, dying every day. I am
here I can see the ambulance come and pick up the casket,
dead body. I see them all.
What do you have there?
Itís a Manchester United top; Iím a really big fan of
Manchester United. Even David Beckham couldnít come
over and get me out if he wanted to.
Gate guard [subs]
Michael what do you have there?
Man U. Man U.
Gate guard [subs]
Your team Man U uh?
In Bangkwang there is a cross section of Thai society --
- itís a society which is very tolerant of transvestites
and those whoíve had sex changes. The cameraman-
guard is sent to film some ladyboys as they are known
These are my girlfriends who live in the same compound.
On weekends we get together here to gossip.
These ladyboys live together in compound 4.
Nong is 34 and was a showgirl at the resort of Pattaya.
She says she smuggled drugs to pay for breast
I wanted to get my breasts done but my parents
refused to give me money to do it. So I made a
decision. My friends convinced me to do it, I had no
idea back then what I was doing, I just kept
delivering bags for them. I had no clue. I spent the
money on the breast operation, and three days
after the operation I was arrested.
So far, I canít find someone that I like. The man I like was
transferred, but in this building there are 1000 men!
I got a 40 years sentence. I have already been here for 10
years so I have to stay for another 30 years. But they told
me I might get pardon this year, so theyíve asked me to
Occasionally Thailandís King grants a royal pardon -- it
is Nongís only hope of getting out, and having a sex
During the day Nong works as a makeup artist at the
newly launched BKP TV Ė the worldís only prison cable
The station is run by prisoners with prior experience.
The anchor, a former radio announcer, has a life
sentence for drug smuggling.
Iím the host and anchor of BKP Cable TV in Bang Kwang
Prison. Iím beginning my sixth year behind bars on a drug
offense. The station started off a collaboration of prisoners
under the supervision of the guards. We got a great
response from our audience Ė our fellow inmates.
Last year the prison bosses installed televisions in the
Dear viewers, BKP TV broadcasts beautiful and romantic
music videos for you Monday to Friday.
Prisoners can now enjoy Thai music videos, the latest
movies and theyíve even had episodes of Mr. Bean to
calm the prisoners down.
Drug dealer Amporn Birtling is still waiting for his
appointment at the lethal injection chamber. Both he
and the executioner will get only two hours notice
before the execution.
Frankly, Iím afraid to die, but I was also afraid of starving. I
did it because I had nothing to eat, I didnít have any money.
I couldnít get a job.
Warden Bunharn sees the need for capital punishment,
but only after all legal means of appeal have been
Children can see that we execute criminals, and as a result
theyíll be afraid of committing crimes.
Here in Thailand, we donít take execution lightly. The
cases have to go to the Court of Appeal, the Supreme
Court, and then to the King before an execution is
approved. Weíre not a cruel country. At Bangkwang we
have only executed a total 300 prisoners, not thousands.
Opponents of the death penalty say that is not a
deterrent Ė and that innocent men always end up being
Thereís only one man, a young man. He was accused of
rape and killing a little girl. A six year old girl. This man I
know him. I have been in prison with him. I talk to him, did
you do it? No, he swear. Even though he was going to die
he swear, he did not do it. On the way to the execution he
shout - I did not do it, why kill me. Why?
Yes, we should have a second chance. People arenít all
bad. Some prisoners here are innocent.
When I hear I have to do an execution, I go back home, I
wash and meditate to clear my thoughts. Then I leave for
the prison at four in the afternoon.
This is the head executioner of Bangkwang. He has
agreed to demonstrate his routine on an execution day.
But he will remain nameless and faceless for security
On my first execution, I worried whether I would be able to
go through with it. Whether I could carry on until it was done
properly. But I didnít think too much, and I wasnít scared or
emotional after I did it.
I try not to think too much. We have to think that we are
paying for our sins. Thatís why we are suffering like this.
The first thing I do is go to the prison shrine and ask for
He passes a life-sized concrete giraffe that graces the
landscaping around the execution chamber.
The giraffe is just to liven up the place.
When I pay my respects I pick up a little bit of earth, put it
on my head. Because everbody comes from the earth, in
the end we go back to the earth. We should ask Mother
Earth to protect us from all danger.
On a real execution day the condemned prisoner will
meet with the head monk of Lap Lae temple, which is
just on the other side of the wall from the execution
chamber. He has given the last rites to every prisoner
executed at Bangkwang during the last 17 years.
Thailand is a Buddhist country so people are always
questioning why executions are allowed here. Yes killing is
sinful but Buddhism teaches us to look at the intention
behind the act. The intention here is to protect the country,
so it is permitted.
Since the Sukhothai dynasty, the King has gone out to fight
wars. He and his troops have had to kill enemies to protect
the country - execution is the same.
The monk tells the condemned theyíre lucky to die by
execution because they can prepare their minds
properly for death.
Giving last rites to a prisoner is not easy but I have gotten
used to it. I tell him that he is lucky that he knows his
destiny and able to clear his conscience. Unlike me, if a car
hits me right after this, I might not have a chance die with a
pure mind. But he can prepare himself, listen to the monks,
clear his mind and talk to people. Itís a blessing in disguise.
Until 2003, the executioners put the condemned to
death by machine gun. They shot them in the heart
from behind -- so the departing spirit could not see the
face of the killer --- and come back to haunt him.
Blood splatters are still visible on the wall.
The last person to die by firing squad was executed on
Dec 12 last year. Director-General Nattee then decided
to change the system to lethal injection.
Because itís more humane. Because when we used the
firing squad, the old method, sometimes they are crying and
shouting and sometime when we shoot and they get down
their blood is spreading, and sometimes they do not die
immediately so we have to take them and shoot again. So,
by new method it will be more humane; and it will not
damage their body.
Director-General, Department of Corrections
I come here to prepare the injections.
The first dose is a tranquilizer.
When we push switch number one, it shows that were
doing step one to the people outside.
By the time the first injection is done, heíll already be
When the first injection is done, I push number 2 -the
muscle relaxant. Then we go on to the third and lethal dose.
When all lights are on here and outside, the observers
know that we have injected all three doses.
I have no clue when I will die. They could inject me today or
tomorrow. I have to try not to dwell on it too much. I tell
myself that we live one life and we die only once. If you are
picked for execution tomorrow itís your bad karma.
After the prisoner has died, we put the corpse down here.
We get the fingerprint of the corpse to check if heís the
same person as the one we had before we executed. We
get fingerprints both before and after the execution. After
we are done with the prints, we put the body in the coffin
and keep it in this room. Right here. Here we have cool air
to preserve the body. If we have 4 bodies, weíll stack them
We bring the body outside and check again if itís the same
person. We donít want to give the wrong body to the
relatives by mistake. After that, we put the body back in the
coffin and walk this way.
Finally, they go out that door.
This small red door is how prisoners on death row
leave the Big Tiger. They call it the Ďghost gateí.
The gate only opens the day after an execution.
Prisoners carry the coffin out into the temple grounds.
If relatives are waiting, they claim the body. If not the
body is left in the temple cemetery. When thereís no
space left, the monk will cremate the bodies.
He now guards the urns of the unclaimed.
I still have them and have labeled their names. This was Mr
Somsak Pornnarai, and Mr Deja Suwannasuk Ė he raped
his stepdaughter. This was Mr Tapoi Ho, a Karen
I pray for them from time to time.
I have to take a look at their names. I saw all of them prior
to their death so I can recall some of them.
Iíve always believed that people will face the consequences
of their actions. Even if you donít get caught, eventually
your karma will catch up to you.
Itís July 2004.
Amporn Birtling still awaits his fate on death row.
I pray for another chance. I pray that I might live a new life
even it means starting again from zero.
Director-General Natthee is building new prisons to
ease the overcrowding problem at Bangkwang.
Heroin smuggler Andrew Hawke still clings to the slim
hope of a pardon from the king, or a sympathetic ear
from Her Majestyís government.
The life sentences never get out. The sentences such as
mine of 50 years, I would have to be 91 before I got out.
Ecstasy smuggler Michael Connell has served six
months of his 99-year sentence.
What I am very worried about - people forgetting me. Iím
lucky at the moment because I have a few people writing to
me but I got a feeling that it is going to die down after a bit. I
am hoping that it doesnít.
BBC2 THIS WORLD Ė THE REAL BANGKOK HILTON 1
FREEDOM IS A RIGHT OF ALL HUMAN BEINGS IN A WORLD WHERE LIFE IS VALUED AND PEACE MAY FINALLY BE A POSSABILITY
Just in case you forgot - read the Universal declaration of Human Rights