By Adrienne Blomberg - Siam-Care Foundation Director
Thailand has experienced a very hot summer season this March/April/May 2012! For the elderly, small children, the sick and prisoners it has been a hard time. One can scarcely begin to imagine what it must be like for prisoners: packed into a overcrowded cell, surrounded by sweaty bodies laying next to each other like sardines in a tin, with few if any ventilator and mostly one toilet to be shared among the many. Bad moods are easily triggered and result in quarrels and fights. But are also quickly resolved as all are in the same 'boat' and all need to help each other survive. Prisoners are locked up for long hours, up to 14 hours a day from 4 pm to 6 am with very little space to move. Spending so many hours in such close contact with others they frequently suffer from skin diseases and are at risk of contracting TB, which is very prevalent. The good thing about the summer season is that it is holiday time for the schools and so children of prisoners are able to visit their parents. Often the waiting and visiting area is full of children playing around while mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts and other relatives hold a conversation with the imprisoned family member through the provided telephone. Parents are happy to see their children again, even if it is from a distance of a meter and half through 2 sets of bars and glass and talking can only be through the telephone. Thailand ranks number 6 on the list of www.nationmaster.com of statistics of prisoners worldwide. Current numbers show that as of April 2012, 234,678 people were incarcerated in Thailand. This number has seen a steadily increasing trend since 2007 when it was 159,155. Bangkok houses over 29.000 of those counted. As everywhere in the world poverty continues to play a role in the crime scene. Although Thailand increased it's minimum wage to 300 Baht (9.50 Dollar) a day for Bangkok and 5 other provinces and given a 40% increase in all other provinces, it is far from a sufficient amount to survive on with a family. The gesture of increase looks good but as the minimum wage paid in Thailand is not indexed to inflation, it has been declining constantly in real terms since the 1997 economic crisis. And so the struggle to make ends meet continues on and those in need often make (desperate) wrong decisions and take risks; sometimes ending up behind bars. Recently the news has almost daily reported on people being caught selling amphetamines, many from the poor communities. It seems to be an ongoing problem... where and how to end it? In prison? Is that the best solution for the families? Over the past months the Siam-Care team has worked with prisoners and their families, visiting, encouraging and supporting them to stay in contact through visit as well as helping the caregivers of the children to prepare the children for the new school year which starts end of May 2012. New books, uniforms and school equipment needed to be bought which was possible with the support of our friends like you! Thank you!
For an inside view from a westerner in a Thai prison click on the link
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