Comments on The Damage Done by Warren Fellows, (12 yrs of Hell in a Bangkok Prison)


I broke down and bought a paperback book last night at a used bookstore. My plan was to go and read as many books that were written about Thailand as they had – and get an idea what kind of writers are out there. I found a couple fiction writers that I liked, but overall I wasn’t excited about anything.

Then I went to the non-fiction side and saw this book that I’d read excerpts of over the years – a couple pages every time I picked it up in a bookstore. I decided last night that the price was right and it’d be good reading for a night. 180 THB for a used copy.

The book “The Damage Done” by Warren Fellows, was really well written. It was a very easy read and descriptive enough that I have a good picture what the guy went through. Well, a good snapshot of it anyway. There were huge parts missing that bothered me by the end – but, no matter. They must not have been important to the guy.

I thought about the heat of the prison. Wouldn’t it be sizzling all year round there? He barely mentioned the heat. I guess one gets used to that pretty quickly. He didn’t mention much about how he went about learning Thai except that he picked up a phrase or two here and there and he’d listen intently when Thais’ spoke.

I’ve been here 3 years and only now can I speak so that everyone understands 90% of what I’m saying… and that’s only in BKK and the South, not in Isaan where the tones still screw me up. Admittedly I’m slow in language acquisition but still I had to try from books for a couple years to really ‘get it’.

He didn’t say much about suicide except that a lot of guys OD’ed on drugs in the prison. Were those suicides for the most part? Surely there must be a couple hundred people per year killing themselves in those huge prisons.

The conditions in the prison were appalling, but they didn’t seem that bad really. He didn’t write much about the good things that happened – the positive things that must have happened, as he wanted to focus on the negative… but there had to be a little more than what he mentioned that kept him and others ‘going’ there for so long. He was there twelve years. Man! That’s a lifetime. No, 5 lifetimes when you spend it without freedom.

He tells a lot about the heroin that’s available within the prison. The same thing that he was trying to bring from Thailand to Australia and that he was sentenced to life for – was available at the prisons to buy. Is that nuts?

What was the Thai guard so angry about – the one who moonlighted as a taxi cab driver in BKK when he wasn’t at the prison? I’d like to know more about what he thought about that. I’ve never seen a cruel Thai person. They must exist… but where are they in general society? I’ve not met any. Sure I don’t dick people around as a rule, so maybe I’ve just been lucky.  I’ve met guys that have been in Thai jails and they seem respectful on the outside. Not angry. Not out to get me or anyone. They seem pretty calm. I’ve not been drinking with them… maybe that has something to do with it.

How many foreign prisoners were in the prison? I’d like to know how many from France, Germany, England, the USA, Canada, Mexico, all over… even Laos, Cambodia, China, etc. There was no mention of any guess at the total numbers but some guys where introduced from various countries as the book went on.

Anyway, overall the book was great reading. I think it took me over two hours to read the two-hundred pages. The book was so well worded that pages flew by. It wasn’t crammed full of extra information that makes reading a Tom Clancy book such an intensive effort. The nice size print on white pages helped quite a bit too. I hate grey type on off-color white pages.

It was just really nice reading about a most tragic experience.

Ok, if you want it – let me know I’ll send it out to you. Update – I don’t have it any longer.

Anybody read “Escape” yet? Richard Barrows told me about that one – and even interviewed the guy that wrote it. I’ve not read it yet.

Did you read THE DAMAGE DONE? What’d you think?

Author: Vern

I'm an American expat living in Thailand. I like to write informative pieces about life in, living in Thailand, including topics like: Thai People, Thai Culture, Nightlife, Technology, and I have published a lot of photographs, videos, and even books on Thailand that you can find at ThailandeBooks.com. There are many photographs of Thailand here - feel free to share with attribution (a link back to the home page). All written content on this site by Vern Lovic. Contact me at Google+.

34 thoughts on “Comments on The Damage Done by Warren Fellows, (12 yrs of Hell in a Bangkok Prison)”

  1. i read the book while in a thai prison myself.it was in 2005 and condition were not as bad as warren fellows writes in his book.it was 25 years later and things had changed since his time.now,embassies get involved if beatings happend and you got a better support from the international community.the thai prison system had to evolve and guards can t do what they want to foreigners anymore or they will have to answer to someone.but that doesn t stop them to be real sadistic bastards with thai inmates.i witnessed a few good bashings and i must say with the time it becomes like a normal situation.12 years of this must be hard to live with so even if he got convicted for drug trafficking i think he paid it full for it.some got away with it(the CIA for exemple) some didn t.
    all the best warren

  2. I have just finished reading ‘The Damage Done’. I do not know what drew me to picking this book up in my children’s School library, but I am so glad I did.
    It is such a well written book, as it has come from the heart. It had me engrossed from start to finish. I am shocked, and disgusted at the human race, and how people and animals can be treated in such a cruel, and hellish manner. I feel so blessed that I have never had to experience anything remotely close to what Warren experienced. I feel like I have drawn the lucky straw. I think he was just a young lad, who made a foolish mistake, and got caught out big time. I think it is extremely unfair for anyone to stand in judgement of others, as no one knows what they would truly do in any given situation.
    I feel so helpless, as all my thoughts, love, and well wishes for Warren, and all the prisoners being treated so unfairly comes to no consequence. There is no happy ending to this story…. So, so, sorry.

  3. Am I the only who is really shocked/annoyed by the fact that Warren has put Avril (the girl in India at the beginning of the book) in “prison” (Ahma’s house) and basically didn’t do anything to try to get her out of there. He more or less has put this girl in prison for life (!) and just moved on with his life. I find that really disturbing…

  4. I have read the book. I think he was brutalised and treated worse than what he need to be. I think he was mislead because when you are young u do stupid things I believe every person has the right to a second chance in life he did wrong but he was mislead over the power of money. I believe that every person should read this book before drug trafficking because you will get an I dear that the punishment out ways the money made 12 years of your life over a few thousand dollars.

  5. Yes, Im reading the book now after buying for 1p on the internet.
    One of those reads where its hard to put down the book. Anyone who gets into drug trafficking knows of the consequences. And im sure he contributed to alot more hell than he suffered as an individual. Although two wrongs dont make a right and it was very inhumane the way he was treated. But the book is a bestseller so i guess he has some compensation now. Would like to know how he is doing now, probably wisened up and living in secret somewhere?

  6. Amanda, I think to base assumptions on a culture because of 1 doctor doing something terribly horrible to you is just as disgusting as what this doctor has done. Do not paint one race with one brush. There is good and evil in every country but to say the culture is evil is disgusting.

  7. I found this book in Canterbury Tales Bookshop Pattaya and was a great read, I found Escape and welcome to hell in this shop also, great books

  8. I did not read the book, but I did spend some time in Thailand dealing with a situation on a similar level. The point of reading the book is not whether Warren deserved what he got or not. It is about the Thai prison system, and indirectly Thai culture. My vagina was embalmed with formaldehyde by a Thai sex change surgeon. What did I do to deserve it? I did things that were “perceived” as disrespectful. Hence, when I write my book one day, it will be alot about Thai culture, and why there exists some highly improbable case where a Thai doctor feels it is okay to inject formaldehyde into the groin of one of his patients. Highly improbable, but possible. In other cultures, United States for example, this is not a possibility.

    So, one could argue if I deserved what I got. In the end, “I” deserve to tell the world what hell I went through in a foreign country, ifnothing else but to tell something about the culture in that country.

    I suppose what Fellows went through is enough for him to want to tell the world of the country and culture of Thailand. That’s it. Simple as that.

    Amanda

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