by Gale Bailey
The below article appeared in Contact 7 years ago but is still relevant today however many of the chaps we originally visited have since been transferred to UK and/or released. We have ‘picked up’ a few other nationalities, including Burmese, Nepalese, Australian, Russian, Iranian, Singaporean so feel our visits are still worthwhile.
There are also prisoners/refugees incarcerated at the Immigration Detention Centre where families are split up – husbands/wives and brothers/sisters lead segregated lives. The conditions under which they are held are not good and the only light relief for families to be together albeit for a short time is when they can all be called out by a volunteer visitor!
BWG CONTACT – October 2006 I have lived and worked in Bangkok for the past 9 years, the first 6 of which I was in paid employment but since then I have been even busier with unpaid ‘work’. I am a member of the British Women’s Group and was coerced (together with other BWG members) into visiting prisoners by a regular member (Sue Moores) who was leaving Bangkok. She wanted to know that some of her ‘friends’ on the inside of Bang Kwang would continue to receive moral support after her departure. Surprisingly after the first time meeting with some of the British prisoners, us raw recruits (Katherine Biggs and myself but later to be joined by many others) were ‘hooked’ despite the fact we thought that prison visiting would be ‘take it or leave it’.
It is strange and we have spoken quite a few times that we feel very close to the ‘boys’ despite never having been in physical contact with them as we can only speak via telephones, separated by glass, a metre gap and 2 sets of bars! However we have built up friendships that we feel will continue whatever or wherever we are in the world. After all we are also mothers and ‘There but the grace of God’ etc. We can certainly empathise with their families who have also become friends.
The phenomenon that our friends are incarcerated on drug related charges whilst we are all so ‘anti-drugs’ provides much food for thought and despite many discussions on the matter, we cannot explain why we continue to visit regularly. We look upon ‘our boys’ as human beings and do not sit in judgement nor discuss their cases in depth; after all they have plenty of time to ponder the reason for their imprisonment!
The letters we have received from the boys are quite wonderful and often emotional expressing thanks for visiting them. We all feel we have benefitted by becoming more tolerant and less judgemental in our lives when dealing with others plus it is very rewarding to be greeted by lovely smiles knowing that they appreciate the time and effort that goes into travelling to visit them.
If you are interested in becoming a ‘VISITOR’ or require more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and more details will be given.