Andrew Hawke [UK]
Prison Number: 290/42
Bangkwang Central Prison
Andrew, from London, is currently serving a 50-year sentence after being arrested in
1998 for smuggling 800 grams of heroin. He knows his actions were foolish and deeply
regrets doing this. At the time, Andrew acted in a moment of desperation. He was financially
and emotionally ruined and homeless.
He made his decision to smuggle heroin after an offer in a pub in Amsterdam.
'I was just… pouring out my sorrows and woes, and basically talking with strangers like you don't talk to anybody else. Let's just say I was suicidally depressed. I really didn't want to do it" he says. "Everything screamed against me not to do it... but I went ahead and did it anyway."
'To be honest I was thinking about taking the late night ferry and jumping off it. I was at the end of the rope, frankly…. slowly getting drunk and somebody whispered over my shoulder 'I know a way you can make some money to get you out of your financial problems.' What? He said 'you can you can fly over and do a job for me over in Thailand.' 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 hung-over 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 didn't 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 you've gotta to walk through. God knows what triggered it off. I just remember my heart going like a trip hammer and was waiting… 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 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 fools day. Very funny.'
Andrew was sentenced to death but this sentence was later reduced to 50 years when he pleaded guilty.
'I deserve to be punished I certainly do. But the punishment is so severe' says Andrew.
Andrew is detained in a prison that 'eats men alive' or so says the few who have survived the infamous Bangkok Hilton.
'Let's put it this way, a lot of people in here will never see free air again' says Andrew.
The conditions of Bangkwang are appalling. You literally cannot lie flat on your back. You must put your hands on your stomach. If your elbows are sticking out then they literally touch the men either side of you. From reports made by other prisoners in Bangkwang, there are many prisoners who are losing their minds. Some walk around all day talking to themselves and others scratch themselves so much that they bleed.
'I think that it is my anger at the British government that's 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. I desperately want to leave but I am subject to the rules of British prisoner transfer agreement. If I return to the UK, then I must serve half the sentence I received here. Other countries are far more lenient. Even if I went back and did the half that the British government insists that I do, I'd be nearly 67. If I was a Dane or a German... I'd have 4 and a half years left' says Andrew.
In Bangkwang it pays to be an American. 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 about this.
'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?' says Andrew.
One can well understand his frustration.