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Transgender Inmates in Pattaya

Photographer: Rungroj Yongrit


Pattaya, a prominent beach resort on the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand, is also well-known for its nightlife and red light district where scores of foreign and local transgender, transvestite and transsexual people live and work, many of them in cabaret shows or the sex trade industry.


Despite being a popular tourist destination, the coastal city is affected by an increasing crime rate that is currently higher than that of the country’s capital of Bangkok. Most crimes are robbery and drug delicts. As of 06 March 2017, there were 4,036 prisoners detained at Pattaya Remand Prison, of which 148 identify within the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community. Ten inmates had already undergone male-to-female gender reassignment surgery.


Under the direction of the Department of Corrections, Pattaya Remand Prison has begun to introduce a policy to keep LGBT inmates apart from other prisoners in order to prevent inmate discrimination and violence. Transgender inmates who have already gone through gender reassignment surgery are separated to live in the female quarters while transgender women who have not yet had surgery have to shave their heads and live in the men’s sector. The LGBT inmates are also assigned for separate sleeping cells to keep them safe. The aim of the segregation is to help avert rape, sexual assault, and the spread of diseases among the prisoners.


The ten transgender inmates living in the women’s quarters receive vocational education to work in a bakery, and are taught lessons in embroidery, Buddhism, and else. The female and transgender inmates can also practice their skills in a beauty salon. During leisure time, transgender prisoners can play volleyball and socialize with other inmates before returning to their segregated living quarters.


The policy to separate LGBT prisoners from other inmates has been in place since 1993 according to the Department of Corrections but has yet to become known on a wider scale.