A Job Well Done

Personal observations on my day in prison

The newly constructed disabled driver’s parking bay

Is Wanna Sombat doing a Good Job

Although officially in total charge of the Administration section, reporting to the Prison Director, Wanna Sombat is incapable of running the section.

Sombat previously worked as an electrician in the Juvenile Detention Centre, a government run institution. Over time, he got promoted to head of the Administration section. He had no admin experience, can not use computers, and does not understand how applications such as Word and Excel work.

In Thailand, and not only in government offices, you get promoted, more often than not, on who you know and how much money you put in the envelope you hand to your boss “under the table”. That’s the normal path to career success in Thailand.

Rarely is the path to promotion on merit.

It is forbidden to take photos on government property in Thailand. The consequences for both Thais and foreigners doing so are serious. The parking bay photo has been taken from the internet (photo credit, alamy) but is very similar to the actual parking bay which is the subject of this story.

To be fair to Sombat, the work he supervised and directed was much better than that shown in the photo. I can’t say that about most painting jobs in Thailand. To finish a task more quickly, they add more water than is specified. Although it allows them to brush the paint on faster, and the end result will look good, the paint will peel off in a few years.

The reason I have titled this story, A Job Well Done, is because Wanna Sombat spent an entire day watching over the workers. A whole day. It was a convenient excuse to get out of his office. He would not have done any admin work there anyway!

Office desks in Thailand are typically untidy and cluttered.

Working practices in Thai offices.

Notice the pink glass containing a drink of some description. It would be quite common to have a plate of food on the desk while working. It’s acceptable practice in many companies, not just in prisons or other government institutions.

The bosses won’t complain or argue with their staff. Because the social cultures of the West and the Far East are so different, their rationale is not easy for westerners to understand.

So, what are these Cultural Differences, particularly in Thailand.

Thais strongly believe in Mai Pen Rai, the national philosophy view that insists on not creating conflict, and not being argumentative. Thais don’t want to hurt your feelings, (greng jai), or cause trouble or inconvenience. They prefer to be lay-back and not get too serious about life. It’s less stressful too. Mai Pen Rai can, however, sometimes come across as not showing interest in resolving a problem. The bosses won’t directly cause a problem with staff.

Not losing Face is also a paramount feature in Thai culture and thinking. A manager would lose face if he reprimanded a worker. He would feel that he was showing that he was not in control of his own department. He simply couldn’t admit that.

There is more on Thai social culture on my website, MattOwensRees.com

Searching inmates before they enter the prison grounds

Security in the Prison

Photography is not allowed on Thai government property. This was the closest image I could find on the internet. It shows the very same procedures that are carried out in the Juvenile Detention Centre.

Some years ago, I was amused at seeing, in the same detention centre, boys being frisked at the end of the monthly meeting they were allowed with family and friends. What was funny was that they were then allowed to return to their families to await a prison guard to escort them back to their prison quarters.

You can guess what happened. An opportunity had been given for friends and family to then give the boys cigarettes, and other items they were forbidden to receive.

Not unlike when, in an episode of the classic comedy series “Porridge”, a disturbance is created so that the warden, Barraclough, has to bend down to pick up some papers an inmate has accidentally dropped on the floor. In less than one minute, all the visitors are hurriedly giving the inmates all the illegal contraband they had brought with them.

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