From the 300,000 inmates in Thai prisons, 6,000 are reported to belong to sexual minorities. A recent article from the Associated Press describes this little known policy that aims at separating LGBT inmates from the rest.
“I thought I was going to be thrown in prison with all the men because I still have the title of Mr.,” Theerayut Charoenpakdee, a Thai transgender woman arrested for drug use and sent to the Pattaya Remand Prison tells the Associated Press, “I was afraid. News and TV tells us that being sent to prison is scary.”
Pattaya Remand is one of the Thai prisons that separate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inmates from the other inmates. According to officials, the policy has been in place to avoid violence, as explained by warden Watcharavit Vachiralerphum. “If we didn’t separate them, people could start fighting over partners to sleep with,” he explains, “It could lead to rape, sexual assault, and the spread of disease.”
At Pattaya Remand, LGBT inmates eat together during the day and sleep in their own quarters during the night. But they actually also often mingle with the other inmates. All in all, most LGBT inmates agree the policy is a good compromise for their safety.
But the system has drawbacks too. For transgender women, the separation policy applies only if they had sex reassignment surgery, otherwise they need to shave their head and live with men, as explained by Wannapong Yodmuang, LGBT advocate. Other activists also worry this policy would stigmatise LGBT inmates.
Thailand is also considering building a new facility near Bangkok dedicated to LGBT prisoners.