This Bangkok Correction museum is closed for the foreseeable future.
The Bangkok Correction Museum is another of these creepy-quirky places some travellers seem to enjoy when visiting Bangkok. Set in the three remaining buildings of what used to be a maximum security prison built in 1890, the Correction Museum is located on Maha Chai Road, just past Chinatown and just before Wat Suthat. It is an interesting place to visit if you are an 'unusual stuff' hunter.
The Prison used to cover a larger area but was converted into the Rommani Nart public park in 1987, with the new prison being located in Bang Kwang Central Prison, 7 miles north of Bangkok. While active, the jail could accommodate about a thousand inmates in conditions that were... less than comfortable.
After reminding you that photos are not allowed, a severe security offer in uniform accompanies you to the first building called 'Cell Block 9', a two storey row of tiny windowless cells, each a meter wide and two meters long, and bearing nothing more than a basic mattress. Each cell is now used to display some of the gruesome forms of punishment used throughout the penitentiary history of Thailand, using human size mannequins to demonstrate the cruel ingenuity of the law enforcers. Of course, this was a long time ago and none of these devices could possibility be in use today. Some of these contraptions include the following: the prisoner was locked in a small rattan ball full of a sharp nails, then bounced around by an elephant like a human soccer ball.
In the next chamber, there's a device on display in which the prisoner is suspended by a metal hook impaled under the jaw, followed by an apparatus designed to drive sharp bamboo sticks under the victim's nails... particularly unnerving. It goes on and on and each cell is the theatre of the many devices used to punish serious offenders. Displays are graphic so it needs little imagination to imagine what it must have been like for the prisoners.
Another set of cells are dedicated to the daily life of inmates, the many ways they smuggled drugs into the prison, how they manage to gamble, the weapons they shaped out of pieces of metal and the iron ceramic crockery in which they had their last meal before execution. The cellblock is small and the round is quick but the scenes depicted are graphic enough to fuel your imagination. As the second floor is off-limit, the security guard walks you to the main building near the main gate called 'Block 1'.
The exhibits of Block 1 demonstrate the different ways to execute the convicted criminals… the oldest way was to chop off the head of the victim with a ceremonial sword... after a good 90 lashes beating of course. With the arrival of firearms, a cleaner way to carry out the death sentence was finally found. Surprisingly the victim was tied and blindfolded behind a curtain and a paper target was placed in the middle of the curtain, this way the executioner didn't even have to look at his victim, just shoot the strategically placed paper target as in a training session. How considerate.
The third and last room shows the current way of conducting a death sentence by lethal injection. Other rooms include a miniature display of the prison a hundred years ago and another shows the same place today with a bucolic park still surrounded by old abandoned security watchtowers. Also displayed is a full collection of the many weapons used throughout time, as well as old photos, often blurred enough not to be too graphic.
The Correction Museum is not for everyone… it's convenient location makes it an easy stop between Chinatown and the old part of Bangkok and the entrance is free. However it's rather small and only addresses those interested in penitentiary history... or those looking for a little macabre shiver while in Bangkok.
Bangkok Correction Museum
- Opening Hours: Mon - Fri: 09:00 - 16:00 (Closed on weekends)
- Location: Romaninart Park
- Price Range: Free (although a small donation is appreciated)