For quite a few months now prison authorities have been cracking down on inmates using cell phones inside the prisons. For a while, it was almost like every single day there was news of another search and more phones found. The illegal phones have been found in most prisons across Thailand with maybe Nakhon Si Thammarat being the worst. In one month alone, authorities confiscated 470 cell phones from that one prison. Obviously the prices of the phones have since sky-rocketed. However, now that the government have declared victory in their drug war, the number of random searches has slowed down. It’s almost as if they have lost interest. So, what is the latest situation? Are there any phones left in prison and if so, what is price?
To answer these questions, I conducted a series of interviews with two Thai prison inmates. I then combined this into one interview. Obviously they want to keep their identity a secret. The interview was done in Thai and I have translated my notes below.
QUESTION: Some newspapers have said that prices of cell phones have gone up to as much as 400,000 Baht. Is that true?
PRISONER: That is crazy. No-one would pay that much. Not even a big drug dealer. However, I do know that in the high security prisons you have to pay more for a cell phone than in my one.
QUESTION: So, is it possible to buy cell phones again?
PRISONER: Yes, everything is back to normal. I ordered mine last week and it has just arrived.
QUESTION: How much did it cost you?
PRISONER: It cost me 15,000 Baht. It’s a crappy phone. A Nokia C1. I think it costs 1,100 Baht on the outside. I also paid 2,500 Baht for a charger and 1,000 Baht for a SIM card.
QUESTION: How was the cell phone smuggled into the prison?
PRISONER: It was thrown over the wall and the person that I ordered it from collected it for me. SIM cards and headphones can be bought from the guards.
QUESTION: How do you charge? Obviously there are no power sockets in your cell.
PRISONER: There are electric wires in the ceiling for the fan. We have a long piece of wire that we connect to this from the ceiling to the floor. We take the plugs off and attach the wire from the charger to this.
QUESTION: How many chargers can be plugged in at one time?
PRISONER: Last night we had about 6 or 7 chargers working in the cell.
QUESTION: What will you do if there is a search in the middle of the night?
PRISONER: I already have a plan for that. I have an arrangement with a lady boy who I will pay 5,000 Baht to hide it up his backside.
QUESTION: How many prisoners have cell phones now?
PRISONER: In my cell? I would say about 10-15 people have their own phone. Before the crackdown I had two. One of them had a camera and I was doing phone sex with my girlfriend.
QUESTION: How do you top up your SIM card and pay for internet?
PRISONER: Easy, just ask someone on the outside to top it up at 7-Eleven.
QUESTION: What do most prisoners use the cell phones for?
PRISONER: They are buying and selling drugs. Some are big dealers and even though they are now in prison, they are still doing the same job. Like before, they never delivered the drugs. They just arrange with their boys where to go and what time.
This is just one prison in Thailand where about 1 in 10 prisoners have their own cell phone. Elsewhere the prison authorities might be more strict and it would be harder for inmates to get a cell phone.