This World: The Real Bangkok Hilton

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    • 00:51

      ANDREW: Let's put it this way.A lot of the people in here will never see free air again.

    • 00:60

      NARRATOR: The Thai people call Bangkwang the big tiger.They say it eats them alive.[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

    • 01:08

      INTERPRETER: I have no clue when I will die.They could inject me today or tomorrow.

    • 01:15

      NARRATOR: In the west, it has beenknown as the Bangkok Hilton.

    • 01:20

      MICHAEL: But there's 24 in the room, whichis really hard, especially if you have to get to the toilet,because everyone is all over the floor.

    • 01:34

      NARRATOR: The prison is notorious.It's been the subject of novels and movies.But the Thai authorities have neverallowed the reality of life inside these wallsto be filmed-- until now.

    • 02:05

      NARRATOR [continued]: Bangkwang Prison is at boiling point.In the last few years, the prison's populationhas tripled because of a government crackdownon drug trafficking.7,000 men are now packed into a prison, built to hold aroundhalf that number.[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

    • 02:25

      PRISON GUARD: [OK.We're ready--get them up.]

    • 02:31

      PRISON GUARD: [Row three-- stand up!]

    • 02:38

      NARRATOR: There are serial killers and multiple rapistslocked 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.

    • 02:60

      NARRATOR [continued]: But they're nervous.They are unarmed and outnumbered 50 to 1.[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

    • 03:09

      PRISON GUARD: [Guards, guards!Don't let them get close to the prisoners.][Don't let them get in the room!][The prisoners might lock them inside!][Wouldn't that be big news.][A BBC crew taken hostage!]

    • 03:32

      PRISON GUARD [continued]: It's so few guards, roll call is taken twice a dayto make sure no one's missing.[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH][TAKING ROLL CALL IN THAI]

    • 03:59

      PRISON GUARD: [We use our batons to check how the bars sound][SOUND OF BATON RUNNING AGAINST STEEL BARS]If one bar has a different tone, itmeans someone is trying to file through it.[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

    • 04:27

      PRISON GUARD [continued]: 3:30 is lock down.The prisoners spend 15 hours a day in their cells.

    • 04:39

      ANDREW: 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's pretty damn close.And you've got a max of 15 hours a day.

    • 04:55

      NARRATOR: In here, if one prisoner gets sick,so do all his cell mates.

    • 05:03

      MICHAEL: I'll tell you.Beds must about that big, about 5 foot long.So me feet are always sticking over the bed.You're always touching someone in the room.It's really hard.

    • 05:18

      NARRATOR: The lights stay on 24 hours a day.Thai officials have said 63% of prisonershave mental health problems.And 1 in 10 is suicidal.

    • 05:30

      MICHAEL: There is a lot of peoplewho are losing their minds.Well, I'm sleeping next to a guy now.He just walks around all day, fought around,talking to his self.I'm in the room next to him at night,and I've seen a dog scratch less.Last night, he were itching that muchthere must have been about three different places where

    • 05:51

      MICHAEL [continued]: he were bleeding from.And he actually got blood on my bed.

    • 06:00

      NARRATOR: 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 liveon Thai television as a warning to drug pushers.

    • 06:27

      NARRATOR [continued]: In the street outside the prison,there's another warning.This sign shows 560 inmates face execution for drug offenses.Amporn Birtling is one of them.His shackles are welded on permanently.He faces death by lethal injection.

    • 06:47

      NARRATOR [continued]: The execution order could come at any time.The Thai government says drug pushers have destroyedthe future of many of the country's young peopleand deserve to die.

    • 07:08

      NARRATOR [continued]: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

    • 07:11

      INTERPRETER: All my life I hated drugs more than anything.I never thought that I would be arrested because of them.I told my kids, don't touch them.Don't get close to them.I admitted that I was guilty.Why has a society punished me to harshly?Why don't they give me another chance?

    • 07:32

      INTERPRETER [continued]: I never committed a crime before.

    • 07:39

      NARRATOR: The tough sentences are popular.The prison's resident Buddhist monk,like the majority of Thai people,has little sympathy for drug traffickers.[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

    • 07:54

      INTERPRETER: 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 family's reputation in society.

    • 08:16

      INTERPRETER [continued]: A murderer typically kills just one person.Drug dealers don't kill just one person,they ruin everyone's lives.[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

    • 08:27

      INTERPRETER: My children try to cheer me up.They say to me, it's OK.Don't be sad, father.If people can't see the goodness of your heart, heaven can.

    • 08:44

      NARRATOR: Thailand is fighting a drug problem far worsethan 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 Thailandto Europe and America, with much of the profit going to the Thai

    • 09:04

      NARRATOR [continued]: agents.But now, Thailand has a major drug problem at home.Methamphetamine pills, called Ya ba, now as cheap as $1 a pill,are flooding the local market.

    • 09:25

      NARRATOR [continued]: In recent years, Ya ba has found its way into schools.Child addicts in the streets have become a common sight.It's called the crazy drug.The government said it's Thailand's number onenational security issue.

    • 09:47

      NARRATOR [continued]: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

    • 09:48

      INTERPRETER: I had a job watching Ya ba [INAUDIBLE].My employers paid all my daily expenses.They paid for my house as well.All I had to do was keep an eye on the pills.When we had a client, my boss would call me.And I would make the delivery.

    • 10:14

      NARRATOR: Two years ago, Thai television broadcast detailsof cases of violence by people high on Ya ba.This man threatened to drop his own son off a building.[YELLING][COMMOTION]

    • 10:36

      NARRATOR [continued]: The Thai prime minister vowed to wipe outthe country's entire drug problem within just 60 days.10,000 people were arrested.More than 2,000 alleged drug dealerswere shot dead in the streets.The authorities said it was gang on gang killings.Human rights groups say it was the Thai police.

    • 10:59

      NARRATOR [continued]: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

    • 11:02

      INTERPRETER: One day, the police caught my partnerand forced him to call me to deliver some pillsto an undercover officer.I was arrested immediately.The police decided to arrest any suspect they could find.That's why prisons are overcrowded these days.They weren't looking for the real criminals.Otherwise, they wouldn't have bothered with us.

    • 11:31

      NARRATOR: Caught in the crackdownwere hundreds of foreigners.20-year-old Michael Connell, from Bury, in Manchester,says he smuggled drugs to fund his second holiday in Thailand.

    • 11:45

      INTERVIEWER: So what were you arrested for, Michael?

    • 11:47

      MICHAEL: I'm arrested for importing3,400 ecstasy from England to Thailand,and I got caught at the airport.When they found them, I knew whatwere going to happen to me, 'cause anywhere in the world,if you get caught importing drugs, you go into prison.So as soon as they found them, I knew I were going to prison.

    • 12:10

      NARRATOR: Connnell's story is of a typical touristturns convict variety.He was one of the hundreds of thousands of young Britonswho visit Thailand every year, many of themyoung travelers easily tempted by the readily availablecheap booze, drugs, and sex.

    • 12:29

      MICHAEL: I just came for an holiday the first time.And I enjoyed it so much, that when I were leaving,I were heart broken to go.The culture, the people are all dead friendly,mainly the weather, 'cause England,sunshine doesn't happen very often.

    • 12:49

      NARRATOR: Overwhelmed by what seemedan idyllic lifestyle, Connell, like many of these travelers,got a false sense of security.He visited Ko San Road, the backpackers ghettoin the center of Bangkok, where many plan their beachtrips in Thailand.He went on to beach resorts and the famous full moon parties,where ecstasy is plentiful.

    • 13:10


    • 13:21

      MICHAEL: So I wanted to get back,but it's so expensive to come over.I had to find a way to make money.

    • 13:28

      NARRATOR: Connell didn't want to say where he got the moneyto buy the drugs.In November 2003, he arrived at Bangkok's International Airportfor his second vacation, in the land of smiles.Customs officials found the ecstasy tabletsin his travel bag after they were detected by an x-ray scan.

    • 13:52

      MICHAEL: I went to collect me bag.And for some reason, it were already off the railgoing around.So I just picked it up, walked through the customs.And then they said, stop.Can I search your bag?So they brought me bag through the x-ray machine,opened the bag, put their hand in, just pulled them out.

    • 14:20

      MICHAEL [continued]: So when I got arrested, they had a big signup in the customs office from which that scared me a lot.I just sat there looking at it, and just praying that Idon't get the death penalty.

    • 14:39

      NARRATOR: The pills, with a street value of 50,000 pounds,were wrapped in plastic and hidden in two face cream jars.Michael escaped the death penalty by pleading guilty,but was sentenced to 99 years in prison.

    • 14:52

      INTERVIEWER: Michael, do you have a message for your family?

    • 14:54

      MICHAEL: I do.Family, I love you all.Don't worry about me.I'm fine.I'm more worried about yourself.[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]Anything could happen to you in the time you been here.

    • 15:16

      MICHAEL [continued]: But the biggest fear is not knowing when I'm getting out.That's the biggest fear that I've got.

    • 15:28

      NARRATOR: Connell has been put in building5 which is reserved for young and dangerous prisoners.Bunharn Cholsin, a prison director,leads the visit into Connell's cell block.20 guards gather for extra security.

    • 15:50

      NARRATOR [continued]: But there is tension in the air.[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

    • 15:53

      PRISON GUARD: [Don't be afraid.Warden Chaweng is a very good kickboxer.]

    • 16:02

      BUNHARN CHOLSIN: Open the door-- building 5.[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

    • 16:07

      PRISON GUARD: [I am Narit Witsaket, Prison Officer 3.][The situation is normal.][These two doors can't be opened at the same time.]

    • 16:28

      PRISON GUARD [continued]: [First, we all have to get inside here.]

    • 16:42

      INTERPRETER: Compound 5 contains about 1,000 prisoners,but there are only 13 or 14 guards on duty.If the prisoners wanted to try something,there'd be nothing we could do about it.If the prisoners wanted to knock the guards out,we couldn't do anything.

    • 17:03

      NARRATOR: Warden Bunharn is concerned about the safetyof the female Thai interpreter.[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

    • 17:07

      BUNHARN CHOLSIN: [Don't worry. Just stay calm.][Don't panic, whatever you do.][The prisoners have never seen a woman come in here before.]

    • 17:28

      BUNHARN CHOLSIN [continued]: Normally, hundreds of prisoners mill around this open space.But now, they are herded against the walls.Before this visit, the guards have raided the block,seizing any personal possessions regarded as against the rules,like mobile phones, and drugs.They're not happy.

    • 17:48

      BUNHARN CHOLSIN [continued]: The prison bosses have a system of prisoner guards calledtrustees.The prisoners call them blue shirts and blue boys.They have the power to search and to disciplinethe other prisoners.

    • 18:06

      MICHAEL: It's difficult to be a foreigner here,because in the building I'm in now,I'm the only white guy in the building.So I stand out a lot.Hey.How you doing?

    • 18:17

      PRISON GUARD: Good to see you.

    • 18:18

      MICHAEL: And I do get looked at by a lot of people,but I just ignore them half the timeand just carry on what I'm doing.Are you all right?I weren't expecting you.[LAUGHTER]

    • 18:32

      INTERVIEWER: So this is where you hang out all day?

    • 18:34

      MICHAEL: Yeah.This is where I hang out, yes.It's the only place where it's quiet.

    • 18:39

      INTERVIEWER: Right, right.

    • 18:40

      NARRATOR: As a new inmate, Connell must wear leg shacklesfor the first three months.

    • 18:45

      MICHAEL: Well, I can't really play football at the moment,because I've got these chains around me legs.But I've got another month now left with them on.So hopefully, they'll be off in a month.Then I can play football.

    • 18:57

      NARRATOR: Life in Bangkwang largely dependson how much money a prisoner has.Poor inmates work for the guards or for other prisonersto survive.

    • 19:06

      MICHAEL: A lot of people here haven't got any money.So you've got to eventually help the ones whohaven't got the money.So he does me washing.And then I give him food and stuff like that, cigarettes.

    • 19:18

      NARRATOR: Each inmate has a bank account in the prison.They can buy food and toiletries from the prisonshop using a coupon system.Michael also gets food and vitaminsfrom the British embassy.

    • 19:30

      MICHAEL: You buy your food every day.So we could buy it.Sometimes you can do cooking.Plus, the MT comes every now-- well,every six weeks they come and they bring mestuff like fresh bread and ham, cheese.It's not the MT who gives us the money every month.It's a charity called Prisoners Abroadwho gives us 2,000 bahts every month, which it helps.

    • 19:51

      MICHAEL [continued]: It's actually a really big help, because my familyain't got that much money to help me with.

    • 19:57

      INTERVIEWER: I don't know.Will they let us?

    • 19:60

      NARRATOR: The guards have had enough.It's time to leave Connell's cell block.Bunharn's tour continues with a visitto the maximum security building.He travels there in the prison transport vehicle, a golf cart.

    • 20:21


    • 20:25

      BUNHARN CHOLSIN: [We use it for trips to Death Row--][--and tours by important visitors]

    • 20:46

      NARRATOR: The inmates call it the jungle.It's solitary confinement, Bangkwang style.[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

    • 21:05

      MICHAEL: I've heard about solitary.There's not a toilet in there, justa little bucket in the room.One guy said you're lucky.You can just lie down on your back flat.But I plan not to go up there.[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

    • 21:31

      INTERPRETER: This is an example of a stubborn prisoner wholacks discipline.That's why he's 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.

    • 21:54

      INTERPRETER [continued]: We could give him-- we will try our best to rehabilitate him.Other people always imagine that we are tough,but in reality, we are not.[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

    • 22:14

      PRISONER: [My case is attempted murder.][I'm sentenced to death, but I'm innocent.]

    • 22:28

      NARRATOR: A large percentage of inmates in solitaryare from Nigeria, a country that has some of the world's mostorganized drug courier gangs.

    • 22:38

      INTERVIEWER: Why are you in solitary?

    • 22:40

      PRISONER: It's only-- I fucked with-- Ihad a problem with another prisoner.

    • 22:45

      INTERVIEWER: How long have you been in solitary for?

    • 22:48

      PRISONER: Three months.

    • 22:49

      INTERVIEWER: You get out during the day?

    • 22:52

      PRISONER: Yeah.Twice in a week.

    • 22:56

      INTERVIEWER: You get out twice in a week?

    • 22:57

      PRISONER: It's just for one hour.

    • 22:59

      INTERVIEWER: One hour.

    • 23:01

      NARRATOR: Nigerian drug couriers take delivery of heroinin Bangkok and send it home to their capital of Lagos.With Nigeria's rampant corruption,getting the drugs through Lagos International Airportdoes not pose much of a problem.In Nigeria, the drugs are repacked into smaller parcels,

    • 23:23

      NARRATOR [continued]: often into condoms that couriers swallow and taketo Europe and America.

    • 23:28

      INTERVIEWER: What are you convicted for?

    • 23:30


    • 23:36

      INTERPRETER: The Nigerian prisoners are problematic.They try to sell drugs, even though theydon't take them themselves.I've talked to them.I understand they're from a poor country.They need money to support their families.

    • 23:51

      INTERVIEWER: What are you in here for, man?

    • 23:53

      PRISONER: [I have problem with my building chief.]

    • 23:55

      INTERVIEWER: You're building chief?

    • 23:57

      PRISONER:[He said I used heroin.]

    • 24:01

      NARRATOR: Many Africans don't have embassy support,unlike American and European prisoners.They have little or no legal help.

    • 24:10

      INTERVIEWER: How many years do you have to serve?

    • 24:13

      PRISONER: [I'm now on a life sentence.]

    • 24:16

      INTERVIEWER: What's it like in here?

    • 24:19

      PRISONER: [Well, we provide for ourselves.We don't have enough food.So we have to survive on our own.]

    • 24:28

      NARRATOR: In the past, Nigerians outsidehave smuggled drugs and mobile phonesinto the prison, often hidden within food.In this way, the Nigerian inmatescould deal drugs and earn money.

    • 24:46

      INTERVIEWER: Does anybody come visit you here?

    • 24:48

      PRISONER: [Only missionaries.Once in a while.]

    • 24:56

      INTERVIEWER: [Once in a while.]

    • 25:19

      NARRATOR: Another western prisonerwho agreed to be interviewed was 47-year-old Andrew Hawkefrom London.

    • 25:29

      ANDREW: Death row.They got their chains welded on.That's my home the last 5 and 1/2 years.

    • 25:44

      INTERVIEWER: And home for how much longer?

    • 25:47

      ANDREW: Nobody in this place can saywith any degree of certainty when they are leaving-- nobodyat all.

    • 25:54

      NARRATOR: Commission for filming isdenied inside Hawke's compound.The last visit inside Connell's provedtoo dangerous and disruptive.But they do allow a camera to be givento a guard, who agrees to film Andrew's daily routine,but under the supervision of a senior prison official.

    • 26:22

      ANDREW: Well, I'm going up to show you where I sleep.

    • 26:28

      INTERVIEWER: What were you arrested for?

    • 26:30

      ANDREW: Stupidity.It was 800 odd grams of heroin-- airport.

    • 26:40

      INTERVIEWER: What led you to make the decisionto try to do this?

    • 26:43

      ANDREW: Desperation-- financial and personal.I was hungriest at the time.It'd just been made that.The personal stuff, I don't really want to go into.Most of the time, I love my sleep.

    • 27:12

      ANDREW [continued]: It's 15 hours a day in this room-- every day.That's a lot of hours.

    • 27:20

      NARRATOR: Hawke made his decisionto smuggle heroin after an offer in a pub in Amsterdam.

    • 27:26

      ANDREW: I really didn't want to do it.Everything had screamed against me not to do it.But I went ahead and did it anyway.Oh, I was just pouring out my sorrows and woes,and basically talking to strangers like youdon't talk to anybody else.

    • 27:50

      ANDREW [continued]: Let's just say I was suicidally depressed.[SIGHS]To be honest, I was thinking about taking a late night ferryand jumping off it.I was at the end of the rope, frankly--

    • 28:13

      ANDREW [continued]: slowly getting drunk-- and somebody just whispered over meshoulder.I know a way you can make some moneyto get you out of your financial problems and not.What?He's said, well, you could fly over and do a job for meover in Thailand, give you some money,be a tourist for a couple weeks, and fly back.

    • 28:35

      ANDREW [continued]: I said, OK.That must have been about 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning.By half past 2:00 the next afternoon,hung over and pretty drunk, I gotsent to the airport, put in a plane, I was here.Once I was here, I was pretty much committed,

    • 28:56

      ANDREW [continued]: because I didn't have a return ticket to any-- or enough moneyto buy one, by that matter.I was arrested right before I entered the aircraft.There was a metal detector thingyyou've got to walk through.God knows what triggered it off.

    • 29:17

      ANDREW [continued]: I just remember my heart going like a trip hammer.And then I was waiting.I waited for at least half an hourbefore the customs guy showed up.And they checked the stuff.And then one of the customs guys said, maybe it's milk powder.And I just looked at him and said, yeah,I bloody well hope so.But it wasn't.I arrived here April Fool's Day-- very funny.

    • 29:44

      NARRATOR: Hawke was sentenced to death, cut to 50 years whenhe pleaded guilty.

    • 29:49

      ANDREW: Oh, I deserve to be punished, I certainly do.But the punishment is so severe.

    • 30:01

      ADRIAN: Hey, Andrew!

    • 30:02

      ANDREW: This my friend, Adrian.The reason he's lying down is because he'stoo tall to stand up.So, Adrian, what does it feel like to be on TV again?

    • 30:14

      ADRIAN: What can I say?[LAUGHTER]

    • 30:16

      ANDREW: Say hello to your friends at home, Adrian.

    • 30:18

      ADRIAN: Hello.

    • 30:20

      ANDREW: Adrian, are you pleading guilty?

    • 30:21

      ADRIAN: Hello.Welcome to Bangkwang, people.

    • 30:23

      ANDREW: Yeah.Are you pleading guilty or not guilty?

    • 30:26

      ADRIAN: Not guilty.

    • 30:27

      ANDREW: Do you see?Yet another man in the system who is not guilty.

    • 30:30

      ADRIAN: You.

    • 30:31

      ANDREW: Oh, I pled guilty from the start, my friend.I was caught red-handed.

    • 30:39

      NARRATOR: Hawke is ordered to show off the new gas cookingarea for the guard's camera.

    • 30:45

      ANDREW: This is the area where all the cooking facilities are,gas bottles all behind.As you can see, there's only six rings.So a lot of people use charcoal instead.But the gas here is provided.Just off shot are about 400 people showering,

    • 31:06

      ANDREW [continued]: which you cannot be showing under the laws of obscenityin Thailand.So we could now move on.OK.Enough.I think it's my anger at the British government that'shalfway responsible for me holding on to my sanity.The number of letters I've written

    • 31:26

      ANDREW [continued]: to the various government departmentsof the foreign office, home office, and the sheer gallof the replies keeps me going.

    • 31:41

      NARRATOR: Heroin smuggler, Hawke, is desperate to leave.He is subject to the rules of British prisoner transferagreements.If he returns to the UK, he must serve half the sentencehe received abroad.Other countries are far more lenient.

    • 31:56

      ANDREW: Even if I went back and did the halfthat the British government insists I do,I'd been nearly 67.If I was a Dane or a German, I'd have 4 and 1/2 years left.

    • 32:12

      MICHAEL: Gosh, these American prisoners,they get transferred back home after eight years.Then they do two to three months in prison in America,and then get released.So a lot of people are really upset about this.

    • 32:26

      ANDREW: Well, the Americans go their own way.No one can stop what the Americans do.But we should at least get the same treatmentas the rest of Europeans do.And none of them do more than 10 years.So why the hell should we?

    • 32:42

      NARRATOR: In the last few years, Bangkwang prisonhas become part of the tourist trail in Thailand.Notices and guest houses encouragetours to visit inmates.The prisoners call them banana visits,because it makes them feel like monkeys in a cage.

    • 33:04

      NARRATOR [continued]: The prisoners sit behind a wire mesh,and the visitors at the other side of a second wiremesh about 10 feet apart.For each pair, it's like trying to conduct a conversationacross a busy road.

    • 33:16

      TOURIST: Two years.No.We were just curious to visit somebody in prison.And we met a boy from Malaysia.And we felt so sorry for him, but we know he is innocent.He's really innocent, but he has life time.I think it's too bad.

    • 33:34

      PRISONER: [My wife is staying in Penang.My wife is staying in Penang.]

    • 33:38

      TOURIST: Oh, Penang.

    • 33:39

      PRISONER: Penang, yeah.

    • 33:39

      TOURIST: When they're guilty, OK.But not life.Not life.That's too long.Don't you think?

    • 33:47

      MICHAEL: Yeah, I get visits from tourists sometimes.They go the British Embassy and wantsto visit a British prisoner.Or sometimes people used to come over from Englandto see me on the news and all that, from Manchester.[CHATTER]

    • 34:05

      NARRATOR: Adrian gets a visit from a fellow Canadian whoread about him on the internet.

    • 34:09

      ADRIAN: [But welcome to the Bangkok Hilton!]

    • 34:11

      TOURIST: Thank you.

    • 34:12

      ADRIAN: [Yeah, we're lucky we are Canadian.Canada has an exchange treaty.Because we have life sentences.We have to do 8 years in Thai prison.Then we can transfer back to Canada.]

    • 34:24

      TOURIST: Well, I just wanted to seeif there's anything you need.I'm going to go to the store after.What do you need?

    • 34:29

      ADRIAN: [Well, besides my freedom, not that much.]

    • 34:31

      TOURIST: I can't get you that one.[LAUGHTER]

    • 34:34

      ANDREW: A friend that I knew from before who appeared justout of the blue one day.That one, I was just taken aback.Yeah.Sarah, you know who you are.[CHATTER]

    • 34:52

      PRISONER: [In here, a lot of people go crazy, you know?A lot of people inside get mad!][LAUGHTER]

    • 34:60

      TOURIST: They make my day, in fact.I come here.It's a food for thought.And they made my day.He's a nice guy.He just make a mistake and that's all, you know?That made me thinking about how weare living in a paradise in the west compared to here.He's got 50 years.He told me.

    • 35:20

      TOURIST [continued]: 50 years.Could you imagine he is 40 or a little bit over 40.That's going to be-- he's going to be herefor the rest of his life.

    • 35:32

      MICHAEL: Some came.I'd say about three weeks ago.He were telling me that he's been all around Thailand,Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Burma.And when he were telling me, I were just thinking, great.I'm in prison.

    • 36:15

      INTERVIEWER: Michael, what happened to your legs?

    • 36:17

      MICHAEL: I'm sleeping next to a guy who's not washedhis bed now for two month.I told him to wash his bed, but he don't wash it.And I'm sure I'm getting mites off his bedor something like that.I've asked him to wash his bed, but he's not all there,

    • 36:38

      MICHAEL [continued]: so he just walks off.And he's still not washed his bed yet.

    • 36:45

      ANDREW: Avoid any open wounds of any kind.With the water here you have to.That's unfiltered river water we have to wash in.Try not to get sick.The worst thing you can do is get ill.

    • 37:03

      NARRATOR: Seriously ill inmates end upin the prison hospital, which is understaffed and understocked.Tuberculosis and HIV are rife.But the patients remain prisoners.

    • 37:30

      NARRATOR [continued]: Many prisoners have developed the full blown AIDS virus.

    • 37:40

      PETE: It happened because they used the same needleswhen they are shooting dope.And sexual, you know.

    • 38:02

      NARRATOR: Hospitals in Thailand partly supportedby donations, but not this one.[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

    • 38:07

      HOSPITAL WORKER: [Most Thai people think these prisonersdeserve their suffering.][So they don't donate to your hospital.][But in medical care, we have to treat all patients equally--][--regardless of religion or class.]

    • 38:23

      PETE: Last year I was sick in the hospital for 23 days.I saw people by the bed.By my side, they're dying, dying, every day.I'm here.I can see the ambulance have to pick up the casket, dead body.Take out.I see them all.

    • 38:48

      PETE [continued]: [CHATTER]

    • 38:56

      INTERVIEWER: Whatcha have there?

    • 38:58

      MICHAEL: It's a Manchester United top.Because I'm a really big fan of Manchester United.Even David Beckham can come over and get me out if he wanted to.[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

    • 39:11

      PRISON GUARD: [Michael, what do you have there?]Man U, Man U. You're team, Man U, huh?

    • 39:19

      MICHAEL: Ah.

    • 39:20


    • 39:28

      NARRATOR: Drug dealer Amporn Birtlingis still waiting for his appointmentat the lethal injection chamber.Both he and the executioner will onlyget two hours notice before the execution.[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

    • 39:42

      INTERPRETER: Frankly, I'm afraid to die.But I was also afraid of starving.I did it because I had nothing to eat.I didn't have any money.I couldn't get a job.

    • 39:58

      NARRATOR: Warden Bunharn sees the need for capitalpunishment, but only after all legal means of appealhave been exhausted.[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

    • 40:10

      INTERPRETER: Children can see that we execute criminals.And as a result, they'll be afraid of committing crimes.Here in Thailand, we don't take execution lightly.Cases have to go to the court of appeal, the Supreme Court,and then to the king before an execution is approved.We're not a cruel country.

    • 40:30

      INTERPRETER [continued]: But Bangkwang, we've only executeda total of 300 prisoners, not thousands.

    • 40:37

      NARRATOR: Opponents of the death penaltysay that it is not a deterrent, and that innocent men alwaysend up being executed.

    • 40:45

      PETE: There is one man, young man, he was accused of rapeand killed-- is a girl, 6-year-old girl.This man, I know him.I've been in prison with him.I talked to him-- did you do it?And he said, no.He swear.He's going to die and he's swearing.

    • 41:06

      PETE [continued]: He did not do it.And on the way he go, he's going to execution.He shout, I did not do it!Why kill me?Why?[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

    • 41:15

      INTERPRETER: Yes.We should have a second chance.People aren't all bad.Some prisoners here are innocent.[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

    • 41:36

      INTERPRETER: 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 4:00 in the afternoon.

    • 41:55

      NARRATOR: This is the head executioner of Bangkwang.He's agreed to demonstrate his routine on an execution day.But he will remain nameless and faceless for security reasons.[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

    • 42:13

      INTERPRETER: At my first execution,I worried whether I would be able to go through with it,whether I could carry out the job properly.But I didn't think too much.And I wasn't scared or emotional once I did it.

    • 42:38

      INTERPRETER [continued]: First thing I do is go to the prison shrineand ask for blessings.

    • 42:48

      NARRATOR: He passes a life size concretegiraffe that graces the landscapingaround the execution chamber.

    • 42:58

      INTERPRETER: The giraffe is just to liven up the police.When I pay my respects, I pick up a little bit of the earth,

    • 43:19

      INTERPRETER [continued]: put it on my head.Because everybody comes from the earth.In the end, we all go back to the earth.We should ask Mother Earth to protect us from all danger.

    • 43:33

      NARRATOR: On a real execution daythe condemned prisoner will meet with the head monk of Lap LaeTemple, which is just on the other side of the wallfrom the execution chamber.He has given the last rites to every prison executeda Bangkwang during the last 17 years.

    • 43:54

      NARRATOR [continued]: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

    • 43:57

      INTERPRETER: Thailand is a Buddhist country,so people are always asking why executions are allowed here.Yes, killing is sinful.But Buddhism teaches us to look at the intentionbehind the act.The intention here is to protect the country,so it is permitted.

    • 44:21

      INTERPRETER [continued]: Since the Sukhothai dynasty, the kinghas gone out to fight wars.He and his troops have had to killenemies to protect the country.Execution is the same.

    • 44:46

      NARRATOR: Until 2003, the executionhas 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 killerand come back to haunt him.Blood splatters are still visible on the wall.

    • 45:12

      NARRATOR [continued]: The last person to die by firing squadwas executed on December 12 last year.Director General Nathee then decidedto change the system to lethal injection.

    • 45:25

      NATHEE CHITSAWANG: Because it's more humane.Because when we use a firing squads,the old method, sometime they are crying and shouting.And sometimes they-- when we shoot, and they get down.Their blood is spreading.

    • 45:47

      NATHEE CHITSAWANG [continued]: And sometimes they are not die immediately.So we have to take them and shoot again.So by the new method, it will be more humane.It will not damage their body.

    • 46:07


    • 46:10

      INTERPRETER: I come here to prepare the injection.The first dose is a tranquilizer.When we push switch number 1, it showsto the people outside that we're doing step 1.By the time the first injection is done,

    • 46:31

      INTERPRETER [continued]: he'll already be unconscious.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 the lights are on here and outside,the observers know that we've injected all three doses.

    • 46:58


    • 46:59

      INTERPRETER: I have no clue when I will die.They could inject me today.I try not to dwell on it too much.I tell myself that we live one life, and we die only once.If you're picked for execution tomorrow, it's your bad karma.

    • 47:19

      NARRATOR: The small red door is how prisoners on death rowleave the big tiger.They call it the ghost gate.The gates only open the day after an execution.Prisoners carry the coffin out into the temple grounds.If relatives are waiting, they claim the body.

    • 47:40

      NARRATOR [continued]: If not, the body is left in the temple cemetery.When there's no space left, the monk will cremate the bodies.He now guards the urns of the unclaimed.[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

    • 47:57

      INTERPRETER: I still have them and have labeled their names.This was Mr. Somsak Pornnarai.And Mr. Deja Suwannasuk.He raped his stepdaughter.This was Mr. Tapoi Ho, a Korean tribesman.

    • 48:19

      INTERPRETER [continued]: 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 deaths,so I can recall some of them.I've always believed that people must face the consequences

    • 48:41

      INTERPRETER [continued]: of their actions.Even if you don't get caught today,one day, your karma will catch up with you.

    • 49:00

      NARRATOR: It's July 2004.Amporn Birtling still awaits his fate on death row.[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

    • 49:13

      INTERPRETER: I pray for another chance.I pray that I might live a new life,even if it means I have to start again from zero.

    • 49:25

      NARRATOR: Director General Natheeis building new prisons to ease the overcrowding problemat Bangkwang.Heroin smuggler, Andrew Hawke stillclings to the slim hope of a pardonfrom the king or a sympathetic earfrom her majesty's government.

    • 49:45

      ANDREW: The life sentences never get out.The sentences such as mine are 50 years.I would have to be 91 before I got out.Impossible.

    • 50:02

      NARRATOR: Ecstasy smuggler, Michael Connell,has served six months of his 99 year sentence.

    • 50:10

      MICHAEL: What I am very worried about,about people forgetting me.I'm lucky at the moment.I've got a few people writing to me.But I've got a feeling me self it's going die down aftera bit, which I'm hoping it doesn't.

This World: The Real Bangkok Hilton

View Segments Segment :


Take an inside look at the Thai prison known as the Bangkok Hilton. The filmmakers interview Western prisoners in the prison, discuss sentencing laws brought on to eradicate drug pushers, and look at prison conditions and execution practices.

This World: The Real Bangkok Hilton

Take an inside look at the Thai prison known as the Bangkok Hilton. The filmmakers interview Western prisoners in the prison, discuss sentencing laws brought on to eradicate drug pushers, and look at prison conditions and execution practices.

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