‘Please help me! I’ve no one to turn to,’ Thitima Thakor panicked over the phone in the morning of May 12.
‘Five days ago, Nui (Suwicha’s nickname) was transferred to Zone 7. The other inmates forced him to be tattooed. There are 37 people in his cell. Nui was scared. He didn’t yield. He told me if he was tattooed, he would kill himself,’ Thitima anxiously spoke of the latest situation for her husband, Suwicha Thakor, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for posting lèse majesté content on the internet.
To visit convicts requires stricter procedures than to visit suspects on remand. After being convicted by the Court, Suwicha was transferred from Bangkok Remand Prison where the accused are held awaiting trial or judgment, to nearby Khlong Prem Central Prison. Visitors are not allowed to bring in items like wallets, purses, cash or even pens which would be seized and thrown into baskets by officials. It can be negotiated in some cases, however.
After passing through metal detectors, visitors, men and women alike, queue up to be body-searched by female wardens.
‘I was transferred after I was convicted. The living conditions here are better. I get up at half past seven in the morning. I have some time for walking. My work is to scrape the paint off the walls, so they can repaint them. The cell is about 3X4 meters, with 10 inmates each. In my cell, there are two convicted of murder, and the rest for drugs, and me. Living here is good, physically. No problem. But my mental state is terrible,’ Suwicha said about his life in Zone 6, days before he was transferred to Zone 7.
‘They take care of the prison alright. I think that’s because people have to live here a long time. It’s made liveable. Some convicts seem to be comfortable, because the living conditions are good. It’s OK in here. We have shelter. We have food. Some talk like this, because they are used to harsher lives. But I just miss my wife and children so much,’ said Suwicha.
He seemed calmer than before, and seemed to have come to terms with his fate to a certain extent. However, he still forbade his wife to bring their three children to see him.
‘If she brings them, I’ll kill myself.
‘My mental state is terrible. It keeps getting worse. For me alone, life in prison is not hard at all. But I have my family. I’m concerned about my children’s state of mind, because they have to worry about me. My wife does everything to help me. She’s concerned about me. But she’s at the end of her tether. I have to stay here as well as I can.
‘Now I’m trying to turn to Dharma, particularly the 3 characteristics of all things, Anicca (impermanence), Dukkha (suffering), and Anatta (illusion of self). I’ve been trying to seek freedom like a fish stuck in a net; the more you struggle, the tighter it gets. Looking around, I see other convicts still smile, laugh and make jokes among themselves. But I feel tortured. My wife cries. I don’t know how my children are living. I cry each time I think of them. I feel sorry for my youngest child who has yet to learn about this because his mother has not told him, sparing him the pain that his brother and sister have felt.’
‘I want my children to be soldiers or policemen. I want them to apply for the cadet school. I want them to work in public service. We don’t want money. We want security. But their father wants them to go into business,’ said Thitima about her children.
Distressed and sometimes distracted, she said that she was starting to have financial problems. She has sold one of their two houses in Bangkok to her sister, and now wants to sell the other.
‘The house cost 1.2 million baht. But I don’t care how much it sells for. I just want to ease the burden. I would take less than 1.2 million. Right now it’s hard to find a buyer. The hang-gliders are also hard to sell.’ She was referring to the adventure sport which her husband loved. He sold the equipment as his sideline.
Suwicha left her 10 hang-gliders, and she has sold 4 of them. She asked his hang-gliding friends to sell them for 60,000 baht each.
Thitima moved to Nakhon Phanom, Suwicha’s hometown, with their eldest son Kanchai, 16, moving from a bilingual school in Bangkok to a regular school in the province.
‘I want to study computer engineering,’ said Kanchai with a sad smile. He has a younger sister Kanyawat, 14, and a little brother Theerat, 7.
Thitima wanted her eldest son to join his sister and brother in Nakhon Phanom, so that she would not be worried, and to ease the financial burden. Kanchai is also a great help in taking care of the younger children. The children are doing well in school, with Kanchai grades averaging 3.00 for the last semester.
‘But I have not been able to concentrate much, because I’ve been thinking about my father,’ said Kanchai. As the eldest son of the family, he ordained as a novice in an ordination scheme to honour His Majesty the King from Mar 28 to Apr 7, but he stayed a novice until Apr 20, in the hope of lessening his father’s karma.
‘Most of my friends don’t know about this. Some people who got wind of it came to ask if I was related to the man who got arrested. But there’s one person who knew I was my father’s daughter, and he deliberately asked me aloud right in front of my school,’ said the daughter Kanyawat, and then went silent, shedding tears.
Seven-year-old Theerat was sitting and drawing cartoons of submarines and warships, with miniature models of android superheroes. He seemed to take no notice what his brother and sister were saying, and just asked for more paper and continued to draw. Everybody in the house confirmed that he does not know what has happened to his father.
Suwicha was convicted on Apr 3, 2009. The period for filing an appeal has already passed. His family and lawyers decided not to appeal, but were thinking of seeking a royal pardon, with his wife and children to write the letters by their own hand. The process, however, has not started yet.
Another of his hopes is to ask to be transferred to the provincial prison in his hometown.
‘At least, I would be in my hometown. Nakhon Phanom provincial prison is located in Tambon Thakor, near my home,’ said Suwicha hopefully.