Alan is surprisingly cheerful and very easy to talk to. He really enjoys having a vistor once in a while.
After his arrest in 2004 he got some bad press which can be googled today. I guess that is one reason why
Alan hardly ever gets visitors. But the light in Alans eyes and the waterfall of stories of his life he likes to
tell a visitor make a visit well worth the while for both parties involved.
Alan pointed out repeatedly that he is ashamed of what he did and sees the idiocy of it, contrary to the articles you can find in the net.
He is trying hard to stay fit as he is locked up with 21 other prisoners for 15 hours each day. He looks quite healthy, nothing like in the pictures shortly after his arrest. Don't be afraid of him, Alan is easy to talk to.
His appeals in court have so far not gotten him far, his former death sentence was reduced to 50 years, a second appeal didn't reduce the 50 years, a supreme court hearing is scheduled for the end of 2006 or beginning of 2007, after that the sentence is final. Alan knows full well that all depends on the shape and mood of the judge that day and not on any legal logic. Let's hope the best for Alan.
Some notes on visitng Bangkwang in general:
Visiting Bangkwang is a pain in the ass since nobody there really helps you do the right things in the right order there and alot depends on the whim of the guards present. Some are alright, even somewhat friendly, some want to show you their power and make life hard for you. Smile and comply. For best or almost assured success do the following:
1. Know the prisoners full name, sentence, building number, or else your chance for a visit is slim.
Important: Be sure of the visiting days and times, you show up on the wrong day and you can walk right back out. Happened to me. When I asked for another prisoner, any, I was not admitted in because I had no relation (if you say friend then that's enough, I din't know that) and no name. If unsure (there are 12 buildings and this website only offers visiting info for buildings 1 to 6), call the respective Embassy in Bangkok. The UK Embassy was very helpful to me, for example. Things change all the time, so you'd better check, it's a long way out there, calculate 90 Min from central BKK via Skytrain and River Ferry one way, i.e. leave BKK at 07:30.
2. Bring lots of reading material, not all too sexy stuff. You have to have a guard view and stamp all reading matter for approval. This is to be done in the foreigner's office (or called something like that, there's a sign), to the right of the main prison gates. Open the door, greet nicely and smile and present your books/magazines.
3. Get out, to the left of the main gate is another office compound. Don't go in, walk around to the back where many locals and hopefully a knowlegdeable foreigner are filling in forms. The first two windows are the prison shop, nothing there for you to do. There's nothing on display and the ladies don't speak English.
Proceed to the next window after the shop (not recognisable as such), have a copy of your passport made, pay 1 or 2 baht, according to whim of officer (or better: bring a copy of the first picture pages).
Go to next window and take a slip of paper and fill in the name, sentence, building number, your relation to the prisoner (friend, if you don't have any relation, aren't we all supposed to be friends?)etc. Hand back the slip with the copy of the passport and wait. Sit with the other 100 people (it's not actually that bad).
4. Once given back the slip of paper, proceed to the x-ray area and hand in ALL your personal belongings, bring a bag for this as it will be locked up in a small locker for you, you keep the key.
5. Have yourself and the stuff (books, food etc., Alan likes coffee and coffe creamer) inspected and be prepared that the guard regards three quarters of your food not suitable, no reasons given. Don't argue and smile. You can send these items easily and very cheaply from any post office in Thailand via registered mail and the prisoner will get all of it. They want you to buy stuff in the prison shop so they can make the money. Stuff they sell they don't like to admit in. Sent it afterwards. Registered! You also need a copy of your passport like above to do this, the post office will ask for it. I didn't want to support the prison shop by buying there.
6. Bring paper and a pen, you may do that. You can even prepare what you want to talk about and take notes in case the prisoner has any wishes you can grant him. As I didn't know Alan I wrote his name on a piece of paper so he could spot me.
7. Afer being thoroughly searched you can proceed to the visiting area. There are no longer shouting matches as before as they have installed telephones for visitors and the inmates now. But there is a window between you and the inmate now in addition to the 5 foot divide and the 2 rows of iron bars.
8. Wait until your friend arrives, they have to call him, smile and start making one desperate soul very very happy. It will make you feel very good seeing the appreciation in the inmates face (as it was with Alan). I instantly knew that my time was not in the least wasted. I'll visit again once I am in BKK.
9. You can talk until 11:30, when you arrive at 9:00 this will give you 30 min to master all hurdles and rocks thrown into your path (an interesting experience, do it) and 2 hours to talk. Time flies, believe me. This of course depends on your friend but Alan is very talkative as I mentioned above.
10. After the visit exit the area by the same path you entered it, get your belongings and confiscated goods back and contemplate on the ferry back to downtown BKK.
You can really make a difference in the monotomy of an inmate's life. And by all means don't go there if you are only a thrill seeker, go there with true interest.
I sent Alan stuff he needed or wished worth about 100 US$ (he wished trackshoes and training clothes). You don't have to do this, for me the money is nothing compared to Alan's 50 years. You might not have that kind of money to spend, you don't have to, the visit is what's most important.
And don't expext to hear horror stories from the life in Bangkwang. The notoriety of this place is today overrated, alot has changed to the better. But of course this does not mean it is fun in there, just the constant phisical violence and poor food are not anymore. Prisoners can, if they have the resources, cook themselves and have a tv available (thai soaps mostly...). Once a week an international phonecall of 5 min can be made. If you don't have any money then you depend on what the prison provides and that is alot harder.
So, that is about it. Enrich your life and Thai experience and make a visit.
Report supplied by Frank October 2006