One of the quieter and greener streets in Chiang Mai runs just to the West of the Three Kings Monument in the old administrative centre of town where, despite reports to the contrary, still stands the old city jail.
Here below we reproduce two excerpts from ChiangMaiCityNews.com and one from ChiangMai-Mail.com. Click on the headings to see the full story and pictures. Following each is presented a brief critical commentary.
Chiang Mai City News : Jan 25, 2013
The old Chiang Mai women’s prison will soon be torn down. The prisoners have already been transferred to the men’s prison, while the men have gone to a new prison in Mae Rim. We were allowed a look inside before the place was demolished. It might not look like much, but the Women’s Prison was supposed to be one of the best places to do time in Thailand.
Beautifully photographed by Phumipat (Oat) Jiarajetchai in the above report
Chiang Mai City News : Jan 28, 2013
CityNews – On 26th January, Chiang Mai Women’s Prison was demolished in front of various dignitaries such as Phra Thep Koson, the head of Chiang Mai Monks Association, and the governor of Chiang Mai.
This report is false in two respects – Firstly all they demolished was the brick wall bearing the prison name which had already been removed and a few courses of bricks from the prison wall. Secondly they cut down 4 of the lovely Green Asoke trees along the front of the building. So still Standing and less Green.
Chiang Mai Mail : Feb 10, 2013
President of the Chiang Mai Culture Council, presided over the ceremony to create the Kuang Luang Wiang Kaew green space in the space.
Many people visited the prison in the last days before destruction and on the day the Governor and his team hit the front wall with a hammer to start the demolition.
Phra Thep Worasithajarn the abbot of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep invited the Buddha image inside the prison and performed a Buddhist ceremony for those who had lost their lives in the prison.
The Chiang Mai Women’s Prison was built on the former site of a palace of King Mengrai called Wiang Kaew who built the city in 1296. In 1902 the remains of the palace were pulled down and the City Hall, Provincial Court District Office and Central Prison were built in the area. The Cabinet gave approval to the development of the new green area at a meeting on January 15, 2013.
Governor Tanin said that the government had held a public hearing as to how to develop the area and the public chose to add a green space inside the old city.
The green space is slated to be open to the public by December 5, 2013 in honor of HM the King’s birthday.
Green Area – Just see how green it looks after trees were cut down & Public hearing? Neither website had reports announcing that a hearing was to take place, so since the public was not informed, better to describe it as a “Private Hearing? . Chiang Mai organisations involved with tree planting & care such as Big Tree in Town and Gum Hak Doi Suthep were not informed of any hearings.
As the reports of demolition have been greatly exaggerated, genuine public hearings could still be held. Questions which might be asked include: Why another park when the city has failed to finish existing parks and most remain in a disgraceful condition? What trees to plant ? Why have trees been cut down and how many more might meet the same fate? What merit is there in retaining some of the structures and the wall and what use could they have? And considering this was reputed to be the “best place to do time” in Thailand should it be kept as a jail to reduce some of the obscene overcrowding in jails e.g. Pattaya Jail- built for 600 housing 3600 inmates with standing room only for many at night?
Photos of the jail exterior by Ricky Ward.