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Bangkok Hilton Prison

Updated on March 4, 2021
Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter is an independent international zoo consultant, critic and writer with over 50 years work within zoos.

The Bangkok Hilton Prison

Bang Kwang Central Prison in Bangkok, Thailand is infamously known as the the 'Bangkok Hilton'and reputed by some to be amongst the worst prisons in the world. It is located at the edge of the Chao Phraya River in Nonthaburi to the north of the city.

Bang Kwang is called the Big Tiger by the Thais. It got this name because it eats up the people who go inside.

The Bang Kwang Hilton houses men of all nationalities but is the the prison in which most foreign criminals are kept. The conditions are quite unlike the 'luxury' experienced in the West. By comparison the 'Bangkok Hilton' is a hell hole which houses in the region of some seven thousand prisoners. A little under a tenth of these are those who have been sentenced to death. The Thai prisons in general are very overcrowded and it is not unusual in excess of fifty people to be confined to a room measuring just eight metres by five metres (pace it out).

Here, the shackle and chain are no strangers as is limited food if you do not have the cash to pay for extras.

Those who have no money will live very poorly as they will have only basic subsistence rations. Prisoners live on what is sent to them by relatives or charities or gifted by visitors. No money actually changes hands. The Prison Office holds the money and dispenses 'chits' to those who have a balance and need them. The chits must be used on the day they are given out. Wealthier prisoners will use these as gifts or to pay other prisoners. The equivalent of just thirty US Dollars a month is enough for any prisoner to live comfortably (a figure of speech given the circumstances).

There is the opportunity to work and so gain extra money. Most prisoners will take up the option as being active tends to take up the time....and there is lots and lots of time.

The 'Bangkok Hilton' has achieved some fame as a movie starring Nicole Kidman and also as a TV series for which boxed sets of DVD's are available. Far and away from the real thing though and I daresay prisoners would enjoy watching the depictions.

Whatever the wrongs and rights of the Thai Prison system those in Bang Kwang are unlikely to get out for a long long time.

Recently prison visits have become something of a tourist attraction.

Millennium Hilton Hotel Bangkok

There is another 'Bangkok Hilton' but this is the real thing. The Millennium Bangkok Hilton, also located next to the river. This though offers every mod con and complete luxury. A beautiful hotel offering a central location with fantastic views over the city.

There could not be a bigger contrast between the two facilities standing on the banks of the same river.

Life in a Thai Jail - Thailand

Prisoners Like Visits

Prisoners locked away for upwards of thirty years or more look forward to visits. It is likely that their own families will only be able to visit once a year if that. A visit then, from anyone, even someone they don't know is an escape, an escape from mind numbing daily routine.

Giving someone a pack of cigarettes, books, magazinesĀ or a little fresh food can really make a difference. So too can news of the outside world.

Inside Because

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Visits to Bang Kwang

Prisoners may be permitted a single hourly visit on most days.

The easiest way to reach the prison is by express river boat. Head upriver to Nonthaburi and get down there. It will not cost you more than 20 Baht from anywhere in the City. The Prison is only a short walk from when you get off the boat.

BANG KWANG Visit Days:

Building 1, 2 and 3 : Monday and Wednesdays
4, 5 and 6 : Tuesday and Thursday
7,8,9,10 and 12 : Friday ( 10 is solitary Confinement, get permission first )
Hospital : Friday

No visits are allowed at Weekends or on any of the many National Holidays.

BANG KWANG Visit Times:

morning :: from 09.30 - 11.30
afternoon :: from 13.30 - 14.30.

To be reasonably sure of access it is advisable to arrive at the registration office least a half hour before your planned visit.

Early visitors enjoy more time to visit and be there when it is not so noisy.


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