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?

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I created this site to focus on expats living in Thailand, and tourists visiting Thailand. Don't miss the blog - Thaipulse.com/blog/. I hope you come away with something positive as a result of visiting Thaipulse.com. Feel free to leave questions or comments at the contact form under Home | Contact above. All written content on this site by Vern Lovic. Contact me at Google+. Cheers!

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

  • February 2, 2009 at 9:02 am
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    i read this book the damage done in bits and bobs while i was visiting thailand, probably one of my biggest mistakes.i was so paranoid going round.to make it worse i only realized when i moved on from bkk down to pattaya that i actually stayed in the same hotel,(the montien).crazy!.i couldnt get this vision of the big tiger out of my head.i was smoking some thai stick while staying there which didnt help the paranoia, i even flushed a bit down the toilet one night after having a spliff in the room, i was convinced people were watching me.around the hotel where we stayed it was kinda quiet compared to others in that it had fields surrounding it.everynight i could see one or two thais just wandering around the field or lying up against a tree.this was there home.i was just getting so paranoid after reading this book..even to look at a thai.you can see it in some of there faces..ive been back many times but this book has had an impact on my time over there,im aware much more..WHAT A READ!..AMAZING!..i also read *welcome to hell* irish man in chonburi jail..good but the damage done is brilliant.im only writing this now because ive just read it again in the comfort of my home in ireland locked the door and just couldnt put it down ..

  • February 2, 2009 at 3:16 pm
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    this is the 1st book ive ever read from cover to cover in a single day. i couldnt put it down for a second. a brilliant read.

  • February 4, 2009 at 5:07 pm
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    i was looking throygh books in my brothers chest fr a good erad and i stumbled across this, iv seen it a few times but never tried it so i went for it i started to read and as wayne says i culdnt leave it down it git more interesting every page… i know this was a truely hard experience but it was so well wrote..it really uts a picture in your mind…i culdnt believe what they do to people there.. its inhumain….but on the other side this is by far the best book iv evr read truely…10/10 no joke

  • March 28, 2009 at 10:25 am
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    I totally agree with most of the comments, this book is brilliant at any level of reading. yet I have just finished ‘trial by ordeal’ which seems a bit flat in comparison, therefore if you want a book you won’t be able to put down and will stomp the shit out of your bum try ‘Fish; memory of a boy in man’s prison’. Don’t need to go third world to be treated as toilet roll paper…I won’t spoiled it, give it go!

  • June 2, 2009 at 6:06 am
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    brilliant book,just finished it.its heart braking scary,sick and fascinating to read what this guy and other prisoners in the prisons of thailand went trough.recommended read.

  • June 9, 2009 at 11:13 pm
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    I read this day before yesterday, on my honeymoon in thailand.
    It was the fastest book I read, and I read a ton!! I read it in about 2 hours.
    It gave me chills- made me think how many places in the world that must exist that are hell pots boiling with humans sufferring . Made me feel like we live in little bubbles – I have seen poverty and dirt and injustice and unequal rights while living in India and here in the states, but it seems like berries and cream in comparsion to what the prison life is here.
    My question is- is this still commen practice.
    are people rolled around in balls for elephants to crush to a pulp?
    are they packed like the roaches in sweat houses that drip with shit?
    I want to know what actions have been taken.
    I agree with the first post- I want to know the postives- i mean 12 years- if it was that all day (and i know some days were) i would have not lasted 12 years, i would have made sure I die long before that. there had to be livable moments. or maybe its true we are so underestimating of the human sprit and tis will to survive and adapt? chilling.

    • June 9, 2009 at 11:25 pm
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      Hi Rheea,

      Yes, it’s a disturbing book. I have heard from others that have visited Thai prisoners and foreigners alike that conditions have improved to a degree over the years since this book was written. I’ve also heard it said that the author of this book exaggerated liberally. I’m sure it was a hellish experience regardless what the truth is about the state of things back then. I’m sure it was no picnic.

  • August 26, 2009 at 7:31 am
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    I read this book a few weeks ago on holidays in Turkey, superb yet incredibly chilling. It’s hard to believe human beings can be treated like this regardless of their crime. As for some of ye guys wanting to know about “the positive things that must have happened”, are ye mental, ye read the book, how in God’s name could anyone have a good day in such appalling conditions!

  • August 27, 2009 at 9:47 am
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    I disagree with the above. The book is not well written. The pseudo-intellectual descriptive prose is pathetic and only paints such a terrible picture because Fellows is clearly lying about many of the events for emphasis. At one point he claims they drank water from a sewer ? He would never have survived 12 years. I’m sure much of it is true but agree with the point above that he has exagerrated liberally to shift copies of what is a poor quality book. The storyline alone is of interest here. I think some of the off the wall remarks in the book show that Fellows had gone slightly mad but he claims he was chained in a crouching poisition for a month in solitary. He would have killed himself I jhave no doubts if this and some of the other stuff is true. The structure is bewildering. Why does he bother to spend a whole chapter telling us the story of his lost beloved in India ? And lastly Warren if you don’t wanna do the time dont do the crime. Think how many more lives would/may have neen ruined if you’d got back to Auz with another 8.5 KG of smack.

  • September 8, 2009 at 12:26 pm
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    You numpty! And slightly outweighed in opinion. Yes he shouldn’t have done the crime, but his book has probably stopped a lot of other people suffering the same misfortune. It certainly made me respect the law there. The book is a blinder, and I would urge any backpacker to read it to make them aware of what happens if you cross the line in some countries. I’ve done 12 days in a german prison. It ain’t fun. 12 years though, you can’t imagine it so don’t question it, just read it and get the message.

  • September 12, 2009 at 2:15 pm
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    i’ve just finished reading the book for the 2nd time. just can’t get to grips with the torture and savagery. happy birthday warren. keep strong

  • October 5, 2009 at 1:06 pm
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    John Lloyd you are an absolute Toby “The book is a blinder”, is it hell, James Joyce would turn in his grave at that outlandish remark. The message is non existent. Searching for sympathy for dealing Smack come on mate. “The same misfortune” Are you suggesting he was unfortunate to have been caught ? You idiot. Prison isn’t meant to be fun its meant as a deterrent for people who think its a good idea to distribute heroin. You ought to be carefull they’ll lock you up again for some of your observations here.

  • October 15, 2009 at 11:40 am
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    He was pointing out how horrible it was in the jails there in thailand. I think he is smart enough to know he wouldn’t get much sympathy from the type of crime he commited. The way they treat people in those thai jails is more of a crime than what he had done or was going to do to people.

  • October 17, 2009 at 11:13 pm
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    Even if it is dealing smack. Why is it ok for afghans to do it? Because they are poor? There seem to be a lot of exceptions for the same type of crime.

  • November 8, 2009 at 12:05 am
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    hey vern it’s scotty from krabi. am reading the book now, googled it, and low and behold your site came up :) it is definitely worth reading for anyone traveling overseas, especially to a developing country (with developing prisons). though common sense goes a long way, i.e. smuggling heroin = not smart. i too got the feeling warran was embellishing a bit, but i have no doubt he experienced hell on earth, and certainly more than anyone could deserve for drug smuggling. yes criminals should be punished, but the punishment should fit the crime. i don’t think the book was particularly well-written, but it is a unique chance to catch a glimpse at a disturbingly dark part of life.

    • November 8, 2009 at 12:19 am
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      Hi Scotty,

      Yep – definitely worth a read. I enjoyed it a lot. You know what’s also good reading? Thai Black Book – it’s selling like mad on TP.

      Hope things are well for you. Nice day today, eh?

  • January 14, 2010 at 12:17 pm
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    the book is an excellent read, im not saying its particularly well-written but its an easy read and serves its purpose

    i think the people commenting here saying “shouldnt have done the crime anyway blah blah” are missing the point of the book. Warren Fellows wanted to share his ordeal, maybe partly as a type of psychological healing for himself or maybe perhaps to just let other people know the type of things they will face if taking part in such a crime as he got somehow involved in. throughout the whole book i never feel pity for Fellows but just disgust at what he and the other prisoners had to endure. no-one has the right to do what some of the guards indulged themselves in. they’re sadistic!

    throughout the whole book i liked Warren Fellows. he was obviously never a truely bad person. at the end of the day people who TAKE the heroin when its brought into a country are making their own decision…they’re not forced to take it so more fool them! he just got involved with the wrong people. the only thing that Warren Fellows was really guilty of is greed and a thirst for the adrenaline rush of doing something he knew he shouldnt. he never killed anyone, never even so much as hurt anyone and when in that prison showed bravery and compassion.

    as for the people who are saying ‘what about the good bits’ WTF are the stupid!! if there are guards putting people through this amount of torture, psychological and physical so you really think they’d have anything ‘good’ and did u not read that he tried committing suicide…but when you’re in that situation you dont want to let them win, you want to survive it all. the human body and mind can survive more than people think!

    • January 14, 2010 at 5:34 pm
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      Nice comment Lauren – thanks.

  • January 24, 2010 at 5:04 pm
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    my favourite part of the book is on the mutiny…. i find it weird that the army special force soldier would readily let the australian named bruce off while he killed his own fellow countryman by busting his brain open with the butt of his m16 when he tried to stand up to equal rights….

    • January 24, 2010 at 5:52 pm
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      Hi Mike,

      It’s been too long since I read this – I forget this part! A re-read is in order… thanks for your comment.

  • February 7, 2010 at 5:59 pm
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    The book is easy to read however let’s not forget why this book was written for the sheer experience of what Fellows endured throughout his 12 year imprisonment and Let’s also not forget why he was in jail in the first place and that is Greed, He got away with trafficking several times and felt he was untouchable. What makes me angry is that people feel sorry for this person because of his experiences in jail. Did you think jail time in Asia is going to be 5 star? You will be treated like an animal as you are seen as an animal and the guards and prison system do not care whether you live or die. Frankly I was rather annoyed when reading the book I felt the money I spent for the book was a waste. He won’t speak about his immediate family because they’re ashamed of him who wouldn’t? He knew the risks, he knew the consequences, but he was driven by greed! That is not something anyone should admire he is lucky that his alive. There are too many greeding people in the world and if anyone thinks they can get away with it then you obviously a moron and you will deserve what you get. People do struggle financially however this is not the way to make “easy” money there is no such thing it;s a matter of using your brains which Fellows never did. People will always learn from the hard way and he learnt his. Shame on the publisher for publishing this book it’s just a waste of people’s time. Like I wasted mine reading it. Why I bought it? I was stuck in transit waiting for a flight I should have proceeded to purchase a comic.

  • March 12, 2010 at 6:23 pm
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    I read this book in a record time for me! 2 days! I can not get it out of my head! Although I do have thoughts of Warren being guilty of the crime and he had been doing it for a long time; I cant believe the way he was treated in ther prison hell holes he found himself in! I can only say to “Warren that he is the strongest person I have ever heard of. I work in a phycatric hospital in Scotland( I am a nurse) and I have seen a lot of horrible mind blowing things and have seen strong people come through some hard situations but nothing like what Warren had to go through! If I had deen in that situation I would too have became a herion addict but the difance is I would of taken enough to kill myself. You are an insparation to me and I will never get you out of my mind!
    KEEP ON KEEPING ON DUDE!

  • April 15, 2010 at 8:34 am
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    I think its very funny that people can read the book and make comments like “ah well he was a smack dealer” or “don’t do the crime if you cant do the crime” what is that? Yeah he was dealing drugs but in the end of the day its not like he was a mass murder (and dont give all this crap about “well drugs kill people so technically he was killing people” the responsibility is in the hands of the drug user not the dealer)
    As for him “over exaggerating” come on i highly doubt that anyone on this page could make it through what he did and if they did they prob wouldn’t have the stones to right a book about how they suffered.
    The tale about his lost love in india was to show how reckless he was before he got caught.
    I too am interested in whether or not prisons like this still exists (and im sure they do) It seems sad that this kinda brutality towards other human begins happens and even more sad to see how easily people can be sucked into that frame of mind of just total power trip. I think the book was amazing, i read it in four hours, when it was finished i read it again. It makes me appreciate all i have, things i took for granted and it helps me to see that i people can survive everything. I dont view the book as a negative thing i think it can be very positive for people to read.

    • April 15, 2010 at 8:36 am
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      I have to say – I enjoyed the hell out of it too. Hoping to stay clear of prison in TH for sure…

  • May 1, 2010 at 1:30 pm
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    I found this book to be short, sweet and to the point……..and wish Warren all the best for the future. Knowing and reading about his ordeal has made me realise how strong the human mind and body can be. Well done, and thank you for sharing your horrific but brave story with us!

  • July 9, 2010 at 8:07 pm
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    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

  • October 19, 2010 at 3:50 pm
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    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

  • December 8, 2010 at 10:55 am
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    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.

  • January 9, 2011 at 8:36 am
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    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?

  • February 17, 2011 at 11:32 pm
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    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.

  • February 16, 2012 at 5:24 pm
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    I found it very interesting reading your comments on the book ‘The Damage Done’ and just thought I would let you know that our studios is going into pre-production to make the movie!

    There will be more information released when our website goes live(very soon)but in the meantime why don’t you join his facebook page, make your comments and keep updated! – http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Damage-Done/112828225397776

  • July 28, 2012 at 3:15 am
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    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…

  • August 23, 2012 at 6:24 pm
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    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.

  • January 22, 2013 at 6:32 am
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    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

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