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Who Lands in Prison?

 
Note: Harit Mahaton, a fiction and fantasy writer and ramen shop owner from Khon Kaen, was arrested and placed in military detention on 27 April 2016 for violating Article 116 of the Criminal Code (sedition) by allegedly working with others to make a Facebook page ridiculing the current prime minister in Thailand. While he was in detention, he was further accused of violating Article 112 (lèse majesté) in relation to a private Facebook conversation. After one night in military detention, he was transferred to the Bangkok Remand Prison, where he remained until being granted bail on 8 July 2016. This essay was first published on his personal Facebook page in Thai.—trans.
 
 
After I left prison, I noticed that society wishes to increase the punishment for rape. So I want to tell the story of Bear and others like him who are in prison.
 
After those [only] charged with Article 116 were released, I began a second period of detention began because I was hit with an Article 112 case. I was immediately transferred to Zone 6.
 
My life and surroundings changed immediately. The reality that I was an Article 112 prisoner, which is a grave charge, depressed me.
 
Still, I tried to keep my spirits up and encourage those who came to visit me so that people outside would not worry. But what I felt when I was inside was another thing altogether.
 
Bear was a friend to me through this period. He is a trader inside the prison and profits from working as a middleman in the exchange of items.
 
For certain, you are not allowed to do business inside the prison. But capitalism continues to operate behind bars. Prisoners hire other prisoners to do various kinds of work for them, such as sewing cloth bags for holding possessions, transforming plastic water bottles into ice buckets for when it is hot, standing in line to buy things for them, and so on. Milk and cigarettes are the common currency of exchange.
 
If you are caught doing business in prison, then you will be punished according to the  [prison] code of conduct. But Bear still does business.
 
Life in prison is dull. Bear’s philosophy is that he is willing to work for nothing. Risking punishment is better than having nothing to do.
 
I asked him once what he did to garner ten years in prison.
 
“A case about a woman,” Bear said.
 
“What do you mean?”
 
“See, my job was to decorate cars. A young one came into the shop to look at a car I was working on. I invited her to go for a ride. We became close and then got together.” 
 
“And then?”
 
“Then, her mom was against it. So she went and reported me to the police.”
 
“What?”
 
“I found out later that she was 14 … kids these days, who can tell their age? I asked other people about her age before I flirted with her. It all came at me, abduction of a minor, rape … every action was held to be one count. I was hit with 20 years. I confessed and so it was reduced to 10 years. When I was first imprisoned, she still came to visit me. Go ask those who were in the visiting room with me.”
 
“How are things now?”
 
“I don’t know. She probably has a new boyfriend.”
 
I didn’t ask any more questions.
 
“After this, if you are going to flirt with anyone, ask to see their ID card first. Believe me, these days we cannot trust anyone. They might be a kathoey, too,” Bear laughed.
 
Bear taught me different things about the prison. He taught me who was who and what one had to do inside. And he kept others from bullying me at the beginning.
 
Bear noticed that I liked to write things down. He took a bunch of notebooks, tore off the covers, and sewed them together into one book. He took a piece of cardboard, long like a ruler, and then glued and sewed it on [as a spine] to the notebook. He put the brown hardcover book into a paper bag and gave it to me.
 
I was really shocked when he brought his handiwork to show me. Even outside, a notebook like this cannot be easily bought. I thought I would pay him in milk for his labor. But …
 
“Don’t worry about. I made it for you because I wanted to.” Bear smiled and handed the notebook to me. 
 
During the next period of detention, Bear was moved to another zone. We did not see each other again after that.
 
I still have the notebook he gave me.
 
Bear is not the only one like that in prison. Just in Zone 6, there are at least 10 Bears.
 
There are people who looked after children who ran away from home and were living in the railway station. There is someone who had the friend of a younger sibling try to pursue them … From the example of Bear, the first thing I want to tell people still outside prison is that abduction of minor cases are very serious. Don’t play around with this kind of case, no way.
 
No matter what the situation, if she is younger than 15 and she is with you at night, and if her parents report you to the police, you will definitely go to prison (or a detention center). Even if you are only two or three years older, it does not matter. Whatever intention you claim will sound unbelievable [to the court].
 
For those in the later years of secondary school who have girlfriends who are still in the early years: if her parents do not like you, you will go to prison. Going to prison does not just mean sleeping in a different place. Going to prison means you will be kicked out of school and kicked out of work. Your friends will abandon you and you will not be able to return to where you were before prison when you get out.
 
The maximum punishment for rape and murder is execution. The second issue that I want to mention is that if the punishment for rape is increased, then those who are not evil people but who violated the law will also face this increased punishment.
 
I ask society to examine this issue carefully and thoroughly, and with compassion.